Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Ship Review - A'den Starfighter, by Priest Varun

I've seen this fighter on Xstreet for quite some time, and always been quite attracted by the small, compact dimensions, the slick shape and the features list - it has a cloaking device, mouselook flight, phantom and physical modes, missiles, and a turret-aimed cannon that allows you to hit stuff more easily as the turret will still fire the way you're looking even if the ship hasn't caught up yet. When I finally found his store in Center of Gravity, I decided to take the plunge and treat myself to one, and I've been flying it around for a few hours so far. Enough to get to know it and post a review!

The overall appearance of the ship is good; the shape is curvy and nicely textured; some good use of the torus shape has gone into this build to give it a shape that manages to avoid the rather blocky look of many non-sculpted physical fliers. The huge twin engines in particular do look exceedingly cool and powerful given the relatively small footprint of the ship. The stubby wings are fanned out in a vague X-shape, but not in any way that makes you think of an X-Wing. They are more reminiscent of small fins. The textures used are dark and discreet, and manage to avoid making the ship look too gaudy.

Climbing aboard prompts a 'Welcome, pilot' sound effect that is not too loud or overblown, and so far has not become irritating. The controls laid out in the manual are fairly standard for a mouselook flier; the usual WASD layout for strafing, acceleration and backing up, left mouse for firing the main gun. In this case I was intrigued by the addition of a rocket launcher and a bomb dropper., a cloaking device and a hit point system. With the gloss of the ship's build impressing me so far, I was expecting great things. With a roar, the engines fire into life with some funky blue glows flaring from the back, and we're off. Pretty quickly it becomes apparent that the A'den Starfighter uses the fairly standard Hammerhead flight script, which is a nice, fast and competent freebie flight script, but which also has one or two limitations. For one, it is locked to the camera, which means that it can suffer the dreaded 'mouselook wobble' (you try to hold it steady, by staring straight ahead, but the ship just rocks left and right repeatedly around you) and it can't do 360 degree flight - a must in this day and age. To make the best use of the vertical space of a sim, the ability to point the nose straight up or straight down is an absolute essential feature, and it did make flying the Starfighter a little frustrating. The main gun works fine, and I especially like the addition of a turret. I hit my targets very easily with this little feature, and I think it's something we should see a lot more of in other ships.

I was very disappointed to find that the bomb dropper and missile launcher are, like the Hammerhead flight script, lifted straight out of the freebie ZX4 attack chopper. Only the explosion effects have been altered, which I think is a massive missed opportunity to put in some fun and new toys. There is apparently a seeker missile mode which according to the manual causes the missiles to home in on the nearest in range avatar - I got the message saying that the seekers were active, but the missiles didn't deviate from a straight line or look any different to the regular missiles, and at no point did my willing target get hit by a seeking missile, so I would have to question whether this function actually works properly. The ZX4 missiles and bombs aren't really compatible with much else other than pure collision based systems, so forget causing damage to DCS2 or RCS or anything else with the bombs. They're for show only. I've seen other weapons scripts that create blast areas that do cause damage to the aforementioned systems - something like that would be a far better and more useable bet. The ship does not come supplied with any combat systems other than an always-on custom collicion based script that blows the ship up when it reaches 0% - it would be nice to see the inclusion of a more universal system such as CCC or VICE, because otherwise you're going to have some frustrating dogfights.

The cloaking system is simple enough, and does exactly what it says on the tin, turning the whole ship's alpha to 0 and rendering it completely invisible. The pilot will need to wear some kind of invisiprim however, otherwise they will be apparent as just floating around... The phantom option is also welcome, just in case you end up getting stuck on a piece of scenery after a big lag hit. There is a radar system included, though in a physical flier, anything that uses lag-inducing sensors should be a big no-no. Useful for locating your opponent, but be aware that it will add to a sim's overall script time when it's in use.

The ship is pretty, which helps matters some, but at this price it is a little frustrating to find freebie flight scripts and freebie weapons and gun turret systems, with not a great deal of alteration from their original, freebie, form. It makes the whole thing feel a little overpriced. For the same price Neocrypter Rojyo's Galactic Shipyards does the Rapier, which I reviewed earlier, which is fully sculpted, boasts a superb 360 degree flight script that also boasts a hover mode which is perfect for landing, has several different combat systems on board, and has custom effects for the plasma weapons. Likewise, Podwangler Zapedzki's range of fighters also feature Neocrypter's excellent script, have full VICE compatibility, and many of them are every bit as pretty as this - and they sell for around 250L, which is frankly a steal. Up against this sort of competition, Priest Varun will need to seriously reconsider his feature set or his price - 800L for a pretty ship used to be quite fair, but the bar has been raised in terms of script quality and price point.

Build Quality - 87%
Despite using no sculpts, Priest Varun has made a ship that looks desirable, deadly and professional all at once. The texturing is superb, the rounded shapes sexy, and the overall shape positively drips menace with its multiple fins and huge engines. It's a damned fine build. My only gripe is a lack of landing gear - the price you pay I guess for not using sculpts to keep prims low.

Scripting - 30%
I have to be honest on this one. There aren't really many original pieces of scripting here - despite Priest being credited as the creator of the flight script, this flies identically to other ships that use the (free) Hammerhead script - I'd be very surprised if it wasn't just a cut and paste derivative with one or two very minor tweaks. The VAS physical collision system is a nice inclusion, as are the cloaking device and phantom mode, but the fact that most of the scripts used here are freebies does sting a little when taken into account with the asking price.

RPabilty - 75%
I have to say that this would be a very cool ship to arrive at a landing pad in, it's deadly shape speaks volumes about its owner, and the fact that it has main guns that can cause damage to most physical collision based personal combat systems makes it quite useful for ground attacks - providing you don't try to use the missiles or bomb dropper - but the lack of a more universal combat system than the proprietary VAS system will limit your dogfighting unless you have friends with other A'den Starfighters. Not a bad ship for rp though, where looks can be everything.

Gizmos - 70%
The ship has gizmos coming out of its ears; missiles, bombs, cloaking device, collision system, radar, phantom mode - however it's a shame that the bombs and missiles aren't more useable, that the seeking missile system doesn't seem to work properly, and that there is no standardised combat system aboard. As it is, it is great, but flawed.

Value For Money - 35%
Priest needs to check out the competition - Neocrypter Rojyo's range of fighters is also exceedingly pretty, fly beautifully, and come featured with multiple combat systems. Dollwife Pink sells some very good-looking ships with a 360 degree flight script and VICE straight out of the box for half this price. Podwangler Zapedzki shows that you can keep prices low, and come out with some seriously desirable ships (his Thunderbolt and Lightning fighters in particular are gorgeous designs) that fly like a dream for a fraction of the price. In fact, at the A'den Starfighter's asking price of 800L, you could buy two of Podwangler's fighters and a shuttlecraft. This is the market that Priest is facing in 2010, and as I said earlier, the bar has been raised in terms of value for money.

Overall - 75%
Bumped up on the virtue of its good looks, the A'den Starfighter is starting to show it's age a little in terms of value and features; 800L might have been a fair price for a pretty ship powered by freebies in the past, but the last few months have seen the small starship market really getting busy with some equally good-looking ships powered by better and more up-to-date flight systems. I was full of hope for this ship, as the looks had me sold, but found myself more than a little disappointed. It still feels good to land it where people can see it however - the hot looks of this ship still haven't worn off yet! In summary, superb build, but flawed scripts and maybe a tad over-reaching on the price.


  1. Just read all your reviews. I'm glad I found your blog and I will be following you from here on out. I'd like to see your review of the Element.

    I'd like to see links to the ships you review either in SL or the Marketplace, or both! Screenshots might be helpful as well.

  2. I'll have to disagree with the bombs and missiles, they do cause plenty of damage to physical combat systems like DCS and RCS. The explosives rezz invisible "frags" on a 8m area of effect that deliver extra damage to an avatar. In fact, just one missile can kill an avatar using DCS2 with default settings.

    Regarding seek missile, if the target avatar is set to the same group as the missile, the missile will ignore the person. (In order to not hit the pilot.)

    Other than that, I agree that it needs some script unpdating since it's been in the market since 2008.

  3. Ah, I didn't get to test the DCS damage, my mistake. However I could not get the seekers to follow anyone regardless of the group tag they were wearing. From a cosmetic viewpoint, both bombs and missiles *appeared* to be direct lifts from the ZX4, apart rom the red explosion effects. I also assumed therefore that the explosions were also the same. Bad Ophelia! Never assume!

  4. I am working on version 4.0. I am taking your criticism into account. I think the new version will be THE starfighter everyone will love to have.

  5. The new version will blow you away! I am about 75% done with the update. It includes: sculpty landing gear!, updated weapon scripts, updated flight engine scripts (360 degrees flight mode!), canopy opens!, some minor tweaks in the shape, sculpty laser cannons and missile launcher, updated bombs script, new floating "proximity mines" deployment feature, a "warp jump" drive! (with cool particles and sound effects) and also, I might include a force field feature and a horizon/compass ball. Regarding combat systems, I am unsure if I want to add 3rd party combat systems since I prefer mine. FAS (new name: Functional Combat System)is simple, but that's what I like about it. It's reliable and easy to install. I am not using 3rd party scripts for the updates and I am scripting everything myself using the knowledge I have gathered in the past 2 years. If you have any suggestions for any other feature, now it is a good time to let me know.

  6. This does indeed sound quite awesome! I shall look forward to seeing this!