BBR7
Huh. It's been like three months since the last Buckyball. Somebody's been slacking off.

And after BBR6 was such a smashing success, too. I mean, seriously... we went from an average 25 competitors to something like 75! Being promoted on GalNet as well as getting an o-fficial Elite Dangerous tweet really helped get the word out, too. Not gonna lie, it was a little overwhelming, but I loved every minute of it. Thanks to everybody who came out and took a shot at the title! Even though it's been three months and this post is supposed to be about BBR7, I'd like to take a moment to recognize the winners of BBR6:

OPEN UNLIMITED – CMDR Alot, Explodes on Contact, Hauler
SOLO UNLIMITED – CMDR Nomake Wan, Sizzler White, Hauler
OPEN SIDEWINDER – CMDR Gurlagg, Boost or Die
SOLO SIDEWINDER – CMDR MostlyEvilKiwi, Bitey

It was a helluva race, down to the wire, and once again the humble hauler proved to be the ship to beat with it's light frame and powerful FSD. Zorg-Peterson should be dumping credits on all of us for all the free advertising they get for their "little ship that could." Good thing we're not in this for the money, right?

BUT - back to BBR7. It's been a sad fact of life in the big black that the fastest ships, the Eagles, Vipers and now the Vulture can't hang in long-distance runs across known space because they just don't have the jump range. BBR7 is going to be a different in that regard, and a little different from previous runs in general. There's still going to be open and solo divisions, and the Sidewinder Challenge will make a return as well. Even though quite a bit of time has passed since BBR6, I hope a lot of the old gang can make it out for another round.


Unless something changes in the next week, the starting line will be in the vicinity of No Chianga and the starting gun fires at 0-hundred hours on 4/4/3301. So if you're out taking selfies out at Sag A*, you've got plenty of time to make it back and wreck your ship for absolutely no good reason.

See you at the afterparty!

EZ
out.

 
 
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It's a brand new year and just about a month ago, Elite: Dangerous went live and now there are several hundred thousand new Commanders all zooming about trying to make a living out there in the big black. Everybody's had time to get used to the controls, maybe made enough credits to upgrade their ships... Undoubtedly now that we're all mindful of insurance rates and maintaining our bank accounts, we can't be foolish enough to engage in rampantly stupid, blatantly irresponsible behaviour, can we? (Note, I threw in the 'U' especially for our CMDRs across the pond. Cheers!)

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Oh shit, they made us!

OK, so I haven't been exactly keeping up on the whole Buckyball Run thing lately. I had a race set up for the Gamma, but the boys and girls at Frontier were madly updating the game prior to launch and the universe wasn't quite stable enough to try and run another event. Not to mention, I kinda wanted to play around in the Gamma. So I put it off, in spite of the awesome bumper sticker I cooked up for it, and figured that I'd wait until post-go live to fire off another one.

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I know it looks like I only spend like 15 minutes on these things, but it takes at least 20.
Well, E:D released and wouldn't you know it, I kinda wanted to play around in that too before starting another race. So here it is, the 2nd week of January now, and after a couple of inquiries about when the next race would be, I made some vague estimates, drew up a race plan, threw out a SOON (TM), and went back to playing. Then one of the guys shoots me an email. The fine folks at Frontier Development put my "soon" out as a tweet. All the sudden there's pressure. I can't believe Frontier Development, after killing themselves with weeks of late nights, slaving to meet their deadline for release, would put me in the jackpot like this. Especially after just going through that kind of hell themselves. The public can be cruel. I mean, it got re-tweeted 14 times! That's, like, 14 more times more tweets than all the BBR's put together. Not to mention having to come up with a whole new bumper sticker. Thanks, Frontier!

So I guess we're doing this thing. We'll kick off, say... Saturday. Watch the forums for details.

(Seriously, Thanks to FD for all their hard work. The game rocks.)
 
 
Yeah this update is late. I blame my publicist. :P

The Buckyball Run 5 came to a close, and what a finish it was. Launched at the start of Elite: Dangerous Beta 3, this was the first BBR to incorporate the new ship modification system. In one way, that utterly threw the competition into chaos because with a near infinite combination of ways to customize ships, there was no solid way to categorize racers by class. A smartly configured Cobra, for example, might smack the ever-loving crap out of a more expensive Asp that hadn't been rigged for racing. Jump range became more important than raw speed, because the longer you could jump, the more options you had for plotting a route. And a Cobra beating an asp? Ridiculous, you might think. Right?

Try a Hauler.

Over the 143 light year race, the top eleven racers were separated by just over three and a half minutes, with Asps, Lakon Type-6's, and Cobras pretty much dominating the board. Ravenov's Eagle Fast Eddie worked its way to the top half of the board, but there's only so much modding that could be done to the single seat fighter. But then, something even stranger happened. CMDR Andon showed up in the appropriately named Hauler Haulin' A and passed just about every other class in the race. The other commanders, being true competitors, didn't seem to appreciate being left in the dust by an upstart cargo van and responded in kind, and soon the Cobras and Lakons and Asps were fighting their way back to the top. Andon, however was unable to make up the time.

And then came CMDR Reload, first-time Buckyballer and a commander with a little cash and maybe too much time on his hands who decided to see just how much engine he could pack into his little Hauler She Got The House. It turns out that if you stuff a D2 FSD in it and strip out everything except the fuzzy dice, a Zorgon Peterson Hauler can match the Lakon Spaceways Asp Explorer in jump range. And this happened:
Out of Nowhere, Reload shot to first place, convincingly. I don't know if CMDR Dorsett or the other racers were surprised, but I was flat out astounded. I had joked in private with Reload about how great it would be to see a Hauler sitting at the top of the board, and I guess he took me seriously because he went and did it. I was sure something was amiss. Reload had been in Solo play instead of Open. His clock was off by daylight savings time. He'd invented time travel or something. But then he turned around and did it again, providing video to the link.

And thus began a tit-for tat battle between CMDR Reload in his Hauler and CMDR Dorsett in his Asp Dreaming Among Stars. Dorsett, no stranger to the Buckyball Run, calmly and methodically re-planned his route and flew with expert care to bring his very expensive baby to Xi Wangkala with a minimum of financial damage. (Who's kidding who? If you crash an Asp, the insurance is going to be a bite no matter how much money you have.) Meanwhile, Reload in She Got The House had to use every trick at his disposal to shave off seconds from his time... Perfect exits from supercruise, speed shots through the docking slot, and setting down on the pad so hard that he was leaving Hauler shaped dents all over Skolem Settlement.

And as the clock began to tick down, it looked like CMDR Dorsett had it locked up with less than a 20 second lead on Reload when the intrepid Hauler pilot made one last run and managed to equal Dorsett's time to the second to tie for first. It's a good thing She Got The House, because there wasn't much left of the poor ship at the end of the race. They don't get any closer than this!

This of course was the headliner of the race. There was still plenty of action further back in the pack, with long-time Buckyball Rivals FoxTwo and Jackie Silver duking it out in their respective Cobras, and CMDRs Burt Makklin and Dean Smith finishing neck-and-neck in their own tie in an Eagle and a Viper respectively. You can check out the BBR5 thread on the Frontier Forum for all the details, but suffice to say this was the biggest and best Buckyball Run yet, utilizing the new technology and good old fashioned navigation skill to show just what a bunch of pilots can do with the right amount of ingenuity and determination. As a pilot who's routinely at the bottom of the Big Board during these events I can honestly say that for me, it's not the destination it's the journey. This one was fun as hell to watch play out! Thanks to everyone who participated.
 
 
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I started off last post by saying that things don't always go according to plan. Buckyball Run 4 had the elements of a great event. The Buckyballers were on a mission this time: bootleg illegal booze from the four corners of the Betasphere to Chango Dock and not get caught. They just had to find the booze and bring it back without getting scanned.

Forget the fact a war broke out at one of the checkpoints, Eranin, the day after the race started. Forget the fact that bootlegging became the hobby of choice for everyone trying to stick it to the Feds, thereby causing a run on the market and making impossible to find anywhere. Shit happens. Gotta roll with it. But when you can't even launch your ship or jump into hyperspace, it makes it a little hard to race. Buckyball 4 launched right at the start of Beta 2 and all sorts of instability plagued the universe. A lot of people couldn't even log in to play, let alone make it to the launch pad to fight lag and crashes to the desktop. Still, a small, hardy band pressed on and made some impressive runs and I salute them. Bucky salutes them. Free bumper stickers for all of them, I say!

But times change. The Betasphere stretched out to become Galactic Pill. Ship modding became available. And a whole new host of connectivity issues came with them. But the Frontier Devs did what they always do and fought back the bugs. Who knows how many hours they packed in over the past couple of weeks but it's made a huge difference. In my trials, both solo and multiplayer are stable, the lag has dropped quite a bit, and most importantly you no longer crash to the desktop when entering the procedurally generated systems down the way.

So... There's a whole new region of space to explore. Let's see who can get there first. The Buckyball Run 5 is coming soon to a spaceport near YOU!

 
 
OK so things don't always go according to plan. Buckyball Run 4 was set up as a standard checkpoint race with an added twist: the start time of each racer would be officially logged, and they'd have only one shot to finish a race that kept the conditions hidden until they started. The idea was to see how well pilots would perform with no preparation and no second chances.

Unfortunately, the Elite: Dangerous universe wasn't going to have it. Because of a change in net code to allow more players in each instance, the game environment has become far too unstable for that kind of condition. People are experiencing all kinds of problems from departure and docking delays to hangs when exiting supercruise to crashes to the desktop. None of which are conducive to a "one-and-done" race like I had envisioned.

Fortunately, fate intervened. An early idea for a Buckyball Run was a race run with illegal contraband where the pilots would have to carry an illegal cargo and sell it at the finish line. Unfortunately, there was no place to BUY illegal goods. Players would have to find cargo drifting at a USS, or create some of their own. Again, none of which is conducive to a race with a level playing field.

Well, a recent update has changed all that. There is now a black market at Chango Dock where alcohol is illegal, but is legally sold elsewhere. So... Buckball Run 4 now has a new objective: bootleggin'. Haul beverages from various locations in the Betasphere and bring 'em back to sell at Chango Dock. Just remember to save a little for the after party...

As for the original Buckyball Run 4, I still like the idea of the one shot race. But that will have to wait until the game stabilizes a bit. Maybe after Beta 2...

In the mean time, fly safe and stay thirsty my friends.

EZ Out.
 
 
One of the cool things about the Buckyball Run is that if you have a botched session, you can start over again, no harm, no foul. In the previous three races, you can analyze what went wrong, think about what you could do better, haul your cookies back to the starting gate and do it all over again. Blow the approach to Pad 34 and have to circle back? No problem. Bounce off the windshield of an Anaconda departing the slot? These things happen. Do a few laps around your destination in Supercruise, adding time to the clock? Oh well, there's always next time.

But what if there wasn't a next time?

What if the time you got was the time you got? What if the route you chose left you without fuel in the middle of the race? What if colliding with the station at max V with flight assist off didn't mean a shrug an a restart, but rather a big, fat DNF on the leaderboard? What if barreling through the slot at full throttle meant your race could end in fireworks within sight of the finish line, instead of a slow, measured pace that could guarantee you'd make it? Would you run the race any different?

Would you be... careful?


That's what we're going to find out in the Buckyball Run 4. You still need to get from point A to point B as fast as you can, but you'll get only one shot at it. The instant you learn the race route, the clock starts ticking with no reset, and only one chance to complete the race. Do you take off right away and make up the route as you go along? Or do you spend valuable minutes plotting out your course, trying to find the path with the greatest efficiency? Do you fly balls-to-the-wall to shave off time touching down on the pad? Or, fearing a race-ending crash do you take your time and give the other guy the right-of-way?

Like the sign says, it's going to be one-and-done. Speed kills, but fortune favors the bold
. This time, there are no second chances. Post time will probably be the weekend of
20 September. Watch this space for coming attractions...

 
 
The dust has settled and what turned into quite a race is finally over. Newcomer Mutant squeaked by defending two-time Buckyball Champion GHDW to take the Viper class, while another Rookie Runner, Dixie Flatline, swooped in to win the Sidewinder class. But it was a close race in both. The Vipers all ended within a 36 seconds of one another, and before Mutant slammed it into high-gear, the four were within 5 seconds of one another - with TToni and GHDW at one point in a straight tie. The Sideys were a little more open time-wise, but the lead changed hands several times throughout the week. At first, it seemed like no one was going to break 20 minutes in a Sidey, but then CMDR Cogg-Willoughby figured out a better way to run, eliminating a costly refuel stop and the others seemed to follow in his footsteps. It just goes to show that the most obvious route isn't always the best.

This race was also fun because of the variety of ships involved. Every ship class was represented at one point or another except for the short-ranged Eagle, including a hauler, a pair of Anacondas and
Lakon Type-6's, and at the end, Dixie Flatline running his Lakon Type-9 PartyBucket to the finish line with a full load of everything a bunch of racers could need or want for the after party at Romanek's Folly.
Picture"Shoot, a fella could have himself a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff!"
The competition became more fierce, however, and the Lakon 6's and one of the Anaconda's were traded up for the just slightly more nimble and speedy Vipers. But it was fun while it lasted and got me thinking about how any future races will be run. The Sidewinder class is mandatory because it allows anyone in the game to participate regardless of their bank account. Everyone else is lumped together in the "unlimited" class, but it's obvious that anytime the Vipers show up they're going to win it. So, for future races we may very well see the winners in three classes: the Sideys, the Vipers, and an Open class where anybody else can have a reasonable shot at winning without some punk Viper jock spewing exhaust in their windscreens.

There was one other event worthy of note, and that was the introduction of Beta 1.04 midway through the race. Unfortunately, this had the effect of introducing connection problems, lag, crashes to the desktop and all sorts of other issues that made it impossible for some racers to continue to run. Not that we didn't try. But after four or five attempts ending in failure or futility, it was obvious some runners just weren't going to be able to post better times.  At one point I was considering stopping the race early and declaring a winner, but there were still pilots registering times so the event went its full duration. Had the Beta 1.04 not been introduced, the board could have looked very different. Who knows? The fact is luck wasn't with everyone, but as we're playing in an open-world environment where bad luck can happen any number of ways, all you can do is suck it up and wait for the next race. That being said, Buckyball Run 4 is definitely in the works... But I'm not about to start it with the Beta in the shape it's in. Maybe when 1.05 rolls out. Until then, see you around the Betasphere.

EZ Out.
 
 
No, the allusion to pool doesn't mean that we're going to be encouraging people to play billiards with other ships in the slot, though that certainly does happen. While doing a trial run for BBR3, for the second time this week I saw an Anaconda bearing down like he was expecting the station to get out of the way. Thankfully, this time, I was on the outside on approach. He was lined up just fine, but at the last second something spooked him and he tried to brake and pull out, which doesn't work for a 600+ ton ship and it slammed nose-first into the station. I was utterly mesmerized, unable to turn away as it plowed into Romanek's Folly, surrounded in a blue haze of shields and thrusters as it scraped its way across the station surface. Even Bucky was freaked out so much by it he had to pour himself a martini afterwards. (He makes a mean martini.)
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I really wish I had a flight recorder going because it was amazing to see and intense to watch. I didn't hear a station-shattering kaboom, so I guess he managed to escape relatively intact. I did manage to catch a snapshot as he pulled away, but if I had been just a few seconds quicker I would have caught the Conda standing on its nose in a shot worthy of the cover of the Frontier weekly newsletter...

I suppose I and my fellow pilots should take heed from this and always approach the slot in a controlled, orderly fashion, even when racing. But where's the fun in that?

But I digress. Like I said, I was out running the route of the third Buckyball Run to make sure it was navigable by the base Sidewinder. I had some grand ideas for this next run, wanting to explore some other scenarios like smuggling or trading or maybe even combat. But unfortunately, the pieces are not yet in place for such events. It's just not possible to provide a uniform experience to every racer when it comes to commodities or dogfighting. So, zooming through the cosmos like raving lunatics will have to do.

The course in BBR2 was a long one, especially in a smaller ship, so we're kicking the length back a bit over more compact course. I expect most Sideys will take 20-30 minutes on their first run, though because of the nature of the course the larger ships won't be able to get away with fewer jumps. But I think it should make for a good run.

I'm shooting to start this race on Sunday, GMT. Hope to see the old gang there, and maybe some new faces as well. Until then, keep your eyes peeled for kamikaze Anaconda pilots on your way through the slot. They're everywhere.

EZ out.
 
 
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As the second Buckyball Run draws to a close, I'm filled with a certain amount of sadness. Not because it wasn't fun, or because we won't do this again (we will), but because of the realization that the Buckyball Run is not something that will stand the test of time in the Elite: Dangerous universe.

Right now, all of the players are trapped in
a bubble containing 55 star systems in a volume of 29,000 cubic light years. While that sounds like a lot, and in fact an entire game could fit in that space and still have enough content to last a long time, space in Elite: Dangerous is only going to get bigger once the beta ends. A lot bigger. 400 million stars across the Milky Way galaxy bigger. And it's going to be awesome.

But... Once the bubble is burst and all of the players have the freedom to explore the galaxy, what's going to happen? Commanders are going to pack up their favorite ships and set sail to the edge of the map. Even players who decide to stake a claim in a system in "local" space might find themselves a thousand light years from where they started. And all the sudden that 29,000 cubic light year bubble is going to seem like the tip of the sharpest needle.

In order to start a race, you need a starting line and a finish line. Right now, that means spending ten minutes making half a dozen jumps to get to whichever station is lucky enough to host our antics and then saying "go." When the beta ends and the galaxy opens up, pilots who want to race might very well be on their way to the galactic core, or seeing how far out those spiral arms really go. Getting back to the starting line may not be an option.

But such is life. People come and people go. We haven't even had the same group of racers participate in the two Buckyballs we've had thus far. But for those who've come back for seconds, it's been a blast! Hopefully, you will all come back for the third, and the fourth, or however many of them there will be. Regardless of the future of the Buckyball Run, it'll be fun while it lasts.

The Frontier Forums will still be the home of the registration and updates to the current race, but the popularity of topics fade and threads fall into the pit of obscurity
. This little ol' site will be a permanent home for the Buckyball Run, a monument to those who undertook the challenge of a winner-take-nothing race, risking ships and bank accounts for no other reason than to have a good time. Bookmark this page, send the leaderboards to your friends who will have no idea what they are... cry out, and let the world know that you were a Baller!

Or, you know, just post a smartass comment.
That'll work too.

EZ out.