Stolen Pixels #171: Probe Away

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Feb 23, 2010

Filed under: Column 33 comments

To be fair, I wrote today’s strip before you people beat the joke to death in the comments. But yeah. You’ve probably made the joke yourself by this point.

(The title is intended to be a notification, not an invitation. Just so you know.)


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33 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels #171: Probe Away

  1. Axle says:

    The funny thing is, some of the minor missions (and zaed’s loyalty mission) take place in big mining facilities… Which apparantly can be replaced by simple probes falling from the skies… That’s probably more advance than all the reaver technology combined.

    Eat your heart with some milkshake, Daniel Planeview.

    1. Falcon02 says:

      While this came to mind, I tend to think of the Mining Probes more as “getting the easy near-surface stuff.” Sorta like ancient Copper Age… Getting Copper, pretty much amounted to collecting Ore Nuggets from the few places they were just lying on the ground on the surface. All those surface deposits have since been depleted which is why we do full fledged shaft/strip mining now… that and the fact that you get higher yields…

      And on pretty much “untouched” planets it wouldn’t be surprising to find some of these surface deposits with lots of ore.

      Also, mining one “rich” planet dry would likely produce resources several times the size of your ship and as such wouldn’t really be all that easy to keep onboard… and would make all those upgrades exorbitantly expensive…

      Imagine if the Saturn V program had to harvest the entire Titanium contents of 5 planets to get off the ground…. And for most of these upgrades we’re talking about small arms, personal armor and implants… all relatively small stuff…

      Thus, despite being “Depleted” there would still likely be plenty of resources deep underground that the miners could reach that your probes couldn’t get to. But of course… the planet is quite “Depleted” then…

      1. Scott says:

        I always saw it as marking places for Cerberus to mine out the resources. When you find them while on foot, you don’t take the whole box with you, but you get the resources anyway (also, it’s listed as ‘Salvage’ at the end of the level).

        Of course, that doesn’t really make any sense either.

  2. krellen says:

    The title got that silly “Mass Effect Rap” you posted this weekend stuck in my head. Thanks, Shamus.

  3. Factoid says:

    Worst part of the whole game, I think.

    Although honestly I’m not sure anymore now that I’ve been playing through on Insane difficulty. The combat’s not even fun like this…I just wanted to play through as a female renegade and see the extra weapons you only get on the harder difficulties and unlock some achievements.

    I’ve been blowing through it really fast, though. It helps that on a second playthrough they give you access to all the squad member loyalty powers and start you with 50,000 of each of the rare minerals…makes upgrades a breeze without having to worry about mining so much.

    1. Factoid says:

      Also it helps knowing when you actually need to go talk to your squad mates…most of the time they didn’t have anything to say, but I had to visit anyway in case there was new dialog

    2. Galad says:

      Unlocking better weapons in the higher difficulties? Is this only in ME2 or it’s in ME1 as well? I obviously haven’t visited ME1’s wiki much..

      1. acronix says:

        I´m quite sure it´s only in ME2. In the first game, the insane amount of weapons the character could get in the inventory would camouflage any “unlockeable weapon” he/she may find.

  4. Blurr says:

    (The title is intended to be a notification, not an invitation. Just so you know.)

    I missed that the first time. I read it again and had a good chuckle.

  5. Did you spell iridium incorrectly on purpose?

    1. Shamus says:

      Wow. Had to check. I just typed it and my fingers naturally did the double “r”. Odd. Guess I don’t know how to spell iridium.

      I do type these in Google docs. Odd that I didn’t catch the mistake, since it has auto-spellcheck.

      1. I just wondered whether you were making a subtle joke about the fact that devs often make up fake minerals for these sorts of things in games. IIRC they actually used real stuff in the first game, so I wasn’t sure.

        But a one-letter misspelling seemed suspect.

      2. Irridium says:

        The spelling seemed correct to me ;)

  6. Lex Icon says:

    I am especially fond of the colony name. I’m sure every gamer who has ever named a planet, city, village, or military base in a game has a few “Awesometopias” under their belt.

  7. Scourge says:

    Amusingly enough is the SMG devastating.. in the hands of an NPC who can just ignore the spray and deliver an almost constant lethal stream of hot plasma () or whatever they shoot.

    Seriously, I had to pause.. my NPC’s fire away, reloaded, fired away, rinse and repeat.

  8. Robyrt says:

    Here are some possible explanations:

    1. EDI is cobbling together those scanning results from obscene amounts of data. Since she is illegal, none of the previous miners have found this stuff.

    2. You’re actually detecting trace amounts of heavy metals that are too small for real mining operations to bother with. After all, you only need parts for a half-dozen rifles.

    3. Nobody in the future actually needs palladium, except for you. Mordin is actually a Renaissance Salarian with fantastic new theories on metallurgy, and you’re his test bed and free publicity.

    4. You are a heartless, evil man/woman.

    1. Jeff says:

      Edit: Nothing to see here.

  9. omicron says:

    I’ve always thought it was similar to Mass Effect 1: You mark locations of resource deposits, get some resources for your trouble, and in so doing you’re actually creating more resource spots for mining.

  10. Zetal says:

    Don’t forget to probe Uranus.

    1. RichardB says:

      Loved how Tricia Helfer kept it so deadpan for that.

    2. Jeff says:

      And remember to send at least two probes.

  11. LK says:

    I sympathize that to get one of those screenshots you had to make several trips to a fuel station to buy more probes to pincushion the planet with and wrangle the slow cursor about until that batch was gone, too.

  12. Ergonomic Cat says:


    Those of us with *real* mice have on the fly adjustable DPI. I cranked mine up to 8k during the mining, and didn’t have any issues at all.


    I’m odd, but I actually enjoyed the mining missions. It satisfied my hunter urges, I guess. It helps that I had a level 30 save to start, so I didn’t have to mine the first 50k or so, and I started early. If you just focus on the rich planets, and drop 5-10 probes on each, you can make most everything by the end of the game.

    1. Ramsus says:

      That really just makes it worse for those of us playing on the Xblock, you could at least share in our misery.

      Yeah, getting enough resources wasn’t the hard part, I didn’t touch most of the planets in the game. Running out of money was a bigger problem. The problem with getting resources was that at 2 points I had to stop playing the awesome new game I had and wanted to play more of to go do something else so that I wouldn’t get to the point of boredom where I’d be breaking things….also my thumb got kinda sore.

  13. Cogfizzle says:

    Speculative: I wonder if they somehow merged the “high level” of the new scanning system with the more “hands on” driving-around-and-doing-stuff of the old system, if they could come up with something of a fusion between the two.

    One without the awkward Mako driving and fighting against ultimately irrelevant terrain and the woefully underpowered radar that makes you scour every square inch of the mission area to make sure you find every mineral.

    One without the endless tedium of dragging a cursor mindlessly across a sphere.

    I wonder how they would manage that…

  14. Zaxares says:

    I can, um, empathise with Shepard in the comic. I have this obsessive habit of ‘perfecting’ my gear, upgrades and squadmates. Even ones that I never use. >.>

    1. LK says:

      I’ve played the game long enough to be halfway through it… but definitely am not, because of the compulsive urge to upgrade everything first.

      I guess on the upside I can get a nicer ending to the game that way, though. And, of course, once I do really get rolling I’ll have enough minerals to never need to probe another planet until it’s hollow again.

  15. Tobias says:

    Frankly, I’m starting to worry about myself. It used to be that all this stuff critics and professional gaming trolls found and made fun of were things that completely escaped me, but yet I could related
    These days, I’m always grinning when it comes to things like that because it’s usually something that I had already noticed – like what Yatzeeh called “Connectivity” (something that I already noticed in ME1 as a good thing and in ME2 as a lack thereof) and now how the mining mini game makes me feel like I’m Lara Croft in her new job for Enron.

    Guess I’m getting nerdier by the hour.

  16. walrus says:

    I didn’t think the mining was too bad. At least I got to hear more of the awesome Galaxy Map music.

  17. RPharazon says:

    For a second there, I thought this was going to be a Homeworld comic. “Probe away” for some reason reminds me of the chatter the game says when you build a probe, or send it somewhere.

    Instead we get another comic for a game I can’t possibly afford.
    When even Shamus does a comic about these newfangled games and doesn’t get references from the oldfangled games, it makes me feel ancient and lonely.
    People still care about Homeworld, right?

    1. Joe says:

      Homeworld = Awesome.
      Truly 3d strategy, on a scale rarely since seen.
      Except for the sequel, naturally.


      But yes, people do still care about homeworld.

  18. Namfoodle says:

    I totally thought it was an invitation.


  19. Mr V says:

    It would be funnier if that was any other weapon than SMG. Seriously, they’re the best weapons in the game, number-wise. It’s the shotguns and assault rifles that are ass, with one exception in each group.

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