Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rowan Hits Commander, Level 10

This isn't a huge deal in the broader sense, but I did get a great couple of shots of THE GLOW (which, as an altoholic, I am addicted to). You see, I have an add-on for WoW that automatically takes screenshots when I level any character. But I had to pay special attention with STO. Anyway here it is:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I have to apologize. I semi-promised a story by now, but it's not gelling the way I'd like, and it's partly my exhaustion. Been working long hours here in Germany, and it sometimes leaves my creative thoughts a little muddled. Hopefully I'll be able to recharge this weekend. If it's any consolation, here are a couple photos from recent trips around the area. If you live in a region of the world this beautiful, green, and historic; appreciate it. Not every place is like this.

The pictures really do not do this beautiful country justice. I'll come back to this when I have more time to figure out the names of the places. Plus I have very "RPG-ish" ruins pics I may share. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sojourner: A Find in Fitzan

Captain's Log, Stardate 87995.7: We have entered the Fitzan System on regular patrol in the Devron Sector. Lieutenant Commander Ymiro has made an interesting discovery.

"Captain, Sojourner's geo- and radiochemistry teams believe they've found a new element in the rings surrounding Fitzan IV! It has properties that are similar to tritium, but there are subtle, yet significant differences. There is a .08 difference in the rate of radiogenic decay! Isn't that exciting?"

Rowan looked down from the command center toward her Science Officer.

"Um, sure. Right. New element," she repeated as she approached the Research Director's console to look over the Bajoran's shoulder. "Show me."
Larrea punched some links on her virtual controls and brought up the data gathered by the ship's sensors.

"The research teams will need more of the element to complete our initial testing. We should gather core samples from the larger ring fragments in this system."

"Very well, coordinate with Lieutenant Pulaski to plot a course and gather the samples."

Ensign Danar, the duty officer at Tactical, spoke up, "Captain, there have been reports of Romulan patrols in the area."

"We should be careful then -- I wouldn't want anything to happen that would damage the samples."

Sojourner established orbit around the planet, just above the ring plane.

Captain, we have scanned the first ring fragment," announced Larrea. "Preparing to beam aboard samples now."

"Very well. Proceed."

"Captain," Ensign Danar spoke up again. "I am detecting signs of a Romulan vessel approximately 30,000 kilometers away in our planned orbit."

"Computer, yellow alert. Pulaski, plot a course to avoid the Romulans."

"Aye, Captain."

"Core samples have been retrieved from this asteroid, Captain," Larrea reported.

"Good. Continue to the next one, Mr. Pulaski."

"Aye, Captain."

As the helm officer moved to redirect Sojourner's path, the turbolift doors opened, and Tarah emerged, striding across the bridge to relieve Ensign Danar. He quickly reported the tactical status to the Andorian XO. Apprised of the situation, she examined her sensor readings.

"Captain, despite our altered course, the Romulan vessel seems to be approaching. I recommend we quit the system post haste."

Larrea turned at that last. "We haven't finished the survey yet."

"The safety of the ship is paramount," retorted the Andorian.

"The Romulans have not been outwardly aggressive here. They may only be assessing our purpose."

Tarah rolled her eyes as the telltale chime of an incoming hail cut short the discussion.

"Captain, the Romulan vessel is hailing us," said Ensign Danar.

"Put it onscreen."

The face that appeared was not Romulan but Reman.
"Federation vessel, you are trespassing in territory belonging to the Romulan Star Empire. Depart this system or be destroyed."

"This Commander Rowan Starblanket, of the U.S.S Sojourner. We are conducting a Scienti--" The Reman commander cut off the transmission.

"Ensign Danar, hail them with our survey plans, including our intended course."

"They are decloaking and powering weapons, Captain," Tarah called out. "Shields up! Red Alert!"

The klaxon blared throughout the ship, as the bridge became bathed in red light from the warning signals.

Rowan moved to Tarah's side, calling out orders and receiving acknowledgments. "Evasive maneuvers, Ski! Auzzie, jam their sensors. Larrea, run a sensor scan and find any weak areas in their shields. And see if you can create a gravity well near their position. Tarah--"

"Already on it, Captain," her XO threw a grin her way. The Andorian was in her element. The ship shuddered slightly as the Reman escort got off an initial disruptor barrage striking the shields of the science vessel.
"A glancing shot, shields at 98 percent," Tarah reported.

"Return fire. Auzzie, where are his blinders?"

"Working, Ma'am." The young Trill manipulated the console to produce a sensor overload on the enemy ship.

OOC: I found this looking through my drafts. I remember it, but  thought I'd finished and posted it. If I did, it's been cut short for some reason. I may get to it again soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

STO: Anticipation vs. Execution

Last July, Tipa over at West Karana "ranted" about what she didn't want STO to become, a WoW-ish murder spree. I am curious how you feel about the game now that you've played it for a few months, Tipa?

P.S. Excellent insight buried in that post about the lame loot drop rate in endgame raids.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Weeping, Wailing, and Mashing of Keys

So maybe it was me, but I don't remember seeing any "pre-patch downloading" on Age of Conan over the couple weeks before I left hot, sunny Texas for cool, rainy Germany. Since then I've tried a couple times to download the patch associated with AoC's recent expansion "Rise of the God Slayer." The problem is, even though the hotel I am staying in has an excellent internet connection, the "Ticket" has to be renewed every 500MB or 24 Hours, whichever comes first. This week I have tried to download the patch several times, but the break in the connection forces it to start over from scratch; no starting from where I left off like most download managers I have used.

I am glad I did not purchase/download the actual expansion yet, which would have been even more headache. Frustrating to say the least. I'm not blaming Funcom  . . . exactly. But it means I can't even log on to play with Chami, right when a bunch of online pals are starting and leveling new alts. Guess I'll have to wait. :c

Saturday, May 15, 2010

STO Forums: Starship Poll

New STO Poll on Starships. Check it out!

STO: The Needs of the Many Reviewed

So I have finally finished The Needs of the Many by Michael A. Martin (and Jake Sisko), the first "novel" set in the Star Trek Online era of the Star Trek Universe. I put "novel" in quotes because the book does not follow the typical story/plot format of most novels. It is a series of "interviews" with various prominent and obscure characters from the three TNG era television series and novels, interspersed with documents and publications from the same fictional era. As such, it is more like an analysis of events than a retelling of them, like reading a book about the causes and effects of World War II, rather than a narrative about what happened during the War. Also, like many science fiction works including TOS and all the series, the author took the opportunity to comment on current (early 21st century) political and social issues. I found the book enjoyable and it answered questions about the STO era I didn't know I had. Mr. Martin did bring out the personalities of the different characters Jake interviewed. I especially liked the Quark and Garak interviews. Of course, the enigmatic tailor was always my favorite character on Deep Space Nine.
I think my favorite part was the interview with the Temporal Investigators Lucsly and Dulmer, first introduced in the DS9 episode "Trials and Tribble-ations." Dulmer's references to events from Star Trek (2009) and various novels as alternate timelines was priceless, a reminder to the purity nerds that stories can be enjoyable and not destroy their precious sense of the Way Things Should Be.

One issue I had problems with throughout the book was when exactly Jake was supposedly conducting each interview. My assumption before reading was that the interviews would be about the era of STO, called The Long War. (A bit of wishful thinking on the part of Cryptic, as I have said before.) But then, as I started reading, it seemed he was interviewing people right before 2409 (when STO takes place) about events that occurred between the time of ST: Nemesis and STO itself. Then toward the end, I decided again that my initial assumption is probably right, and the Long War is meant to refer to 2409 (STO) and beyond. Unfortunately, I can't be sure either way, as there is no reference to Jake in the timeline given at the end of the book, nor in the online version, which is more detailed. I like when Star Trek novels pin themselves to a certain spot on the time line, like Final Frontier by Diane Carey, which places at least the framing story directly after the events of "The City on the Edge of Forever."

The book did give me insight into the game, which I think is its main purpose. I often read similar analytical non-fiction, like Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse both by Jared Diamond, so the format was no trouble. Is this a must read for Star Trek fans? No. Is it even a must read for STO players? Probably not. Was it enjoyable? Thoroughly. Especially in the small chunks I was reading on this trip. If I had read it straight through, it might have a little harder to swallow. Having not experienced all the content of STO, it will interesting for me to see how in-game missions relate to events described in the book.

Dual Skill Trees?

[EDIT: Added this paragraph for clarification and historical purposes] I can't believe this even needs to be said. Of course it's been said several times in this thread. The OP just doesn't get the point of a skill tree in this or probably any MMORPG from WoW to SWTOR (yes I know it's not out yet). The tree is a way for you to specialize, to customize your character with more than funky ears and blue skin. If you choose to sink all your skill points into Space skills, then there won't be any in Ground skills. Works as designed. The term is "talent specialization" for a reason. To ask for more points or a whole new tree to sink them into defeats both the customization of your character and the choices you and all of us have to make. The skill tree may or may not need improvement. What it definitely does not need, is your suggestion.

Originally Posted in the STO forums (Thanks to Dyonas for the use of your words):
Originally Posted by Dyonas View Post
If anything the limited skill points means that you have to view your options and see what is worth it vs what you want to do and pick carefully. . . That information is sparse in game at best.
I completely agree with this. But the solution is improved information on what the skills do, not unlimited SP.
Even if every single player had all skills at nine what difference would it make to the game? None whatsoever! You're still limited to what you can do and use by ship type, equipment, bridge officer slots, away team kit and ultimately how good you are at using them. In contrast to the limited skill points you would likely find a much larger variety of skills in use and far less of the cookie cutter setups.
The point of the skill tree is to specialize with certain kits, BOff abilities, ships, and ship equipment.
All skills + small variety of useful, non-broken skills = more options open.
Limited skills + smaller variety of useful, non-broken skills = limited options.
I repeat from my earlier post: Works as designed. If everyone had unlimited access to all skills, there would be no point to the skill tree at all. Simply rank up as you get the Skill Points, which then become simple XP. The whole point of the skill tree is to force choices on the player. If I invest points in disruptor skills, then maybe I should consistently choose disruptor-type weapons. Then my DPS will be increased *with disruptor weapons.* Imagine that.

Take this in a different scenario. Imagine a player in a fantasy-based MMORPG, say WoW. He (or she) picks a rogue. Some talents improve his DPS with daggers, some improve DPS with swords. He only has enough to max DPS on one or the other but not both. He could whine that he wants to play both with swords and daggers, depending on the situation. But he does not have that option, unless he wants to be pretty good at both but not excellent at either. What he will *never* be able to do is wear plate armor. Because then there would an imbalance.

In real life, a surgeon can choose to specialize in neurosurgery or limb reattachment. Both require so much *specialized* skill that the surgeon cannot hope to be at the top of both specialties. Or a surgeon can decide not specialize so much, and be able to perform adequately at a variety of different "-ectomies." But that surgeon will never be a neurosurgeon, unless he or she chooses to take the time to train further. And then the surgeon would still not be able to reattach a limb.

The space players need to stop crying about their own specialization. It has been established that if you want to be more flexible, tier three is where to spend your points, increased specialization comes at an ever increasing cost per point of improvement, at drastically diminishing returns.

If the individual skills are unbalanced, that's a completely different issue. But it does not mean we need the "dual-spec" solution proposed by the OP.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Firefly MMORPG

Tipa over at West Karana has been posting about Intellectual Properties she thinks could/should be developed as MMORPGs. She hadn't intended to write about Firefly/Serenity. So I decided I would. Let me start by saying this is actually (cross your fingers) an IP in development according to various announcements and discussed in Serenity Found, a book of essays about the show and the universe it depicts. The project has been delayed, but hopefully we'll see it one of these days.

Minor background on the show, because many may not be aware of it. Created by Joss Whedon, the man behind Buffy and Angel, Firefly was a short-lived show about a small crew of smugglers and noble thieves with a universe stacked against them. The broadcast network Fox only aired 12 of the 15 fully produced episodes before canceling the show, but DVD sales and audience enthusiasm inspired the producers to make a movie called Serenity that tied up most of the loose ends. The dialogue was fantastic, the characters brought vividly to life by perfectly-cast, talented actors. A healthy mix of Wild West and gritty Space Drama (can't strictly call it Sci-Fi), Firefly created a world of incredible depth and realism in less than 18 total hours of produced footage. People around the U.S. continue to have Shindigs where they celebrate the wondrous world that Joss created. I HIGHLY recommend that you get a hold of the DVDs (Blu-Ray) and watch this show. "Whew, let go of the megaphone, Rowan."

The 'Verse would make a great RPG environment. The main characters of the show are literally nobodies, trying to stay under the radar of the government. Player characters could be just as low profile, or maybe a little higher. It has always bothered me a bit how many heroes (player characters) there are in . . . Azeroth, for example. It's absurd really. There would be a multitude of environments available as well; just from the produced episodes, there are American frontier-style towns and landscapes, futuristic cities, ante-bellum type societies, Asian-style architectures, space stations, a variety of ship interiors, and interplanetary space, just to name a few.

Factions could include the Alliance vs. Separatists or former "Browncoats," or the Law ("Feds") vs. Criminals/Smugglers. A player wouldn't necessarily have to take sides, though maybe influence/reputation could play a part in what quests/missions are available.

Speaking of quests, many typical RPG quest types would fit in with the Firefly 'Verse: heists, collecting/salvage, milk runs, escorts, defend a location, capture/kill, etc. It would even be interesting to be able to send other players on missions with rewards available upon completion, maybe out of your own currency and discarded gear.

For those inclined, there could be ships to fly, or ship interiors to explore.

Potential classes:
Shootist/Soldier (Ranged)
Brawler/Operative (Melee (Tank?))
Smuggler/Bounty Hunter(Rogue)
Doctor (Healer)
Engineer (Mech Healer/Buffer)

Maybes: (not sure how these could fit)
Preacher (though no magic in the show so no healing)
Companion (would lead to a mature rating)

You could possibly have a major and minor class for each character, like Shootist/Medic, Doctor/Mechanic, Engineer/Thief. The nature of the show means the game could center around a ship and crew controlled by the player a la STO, or it could be more like WoW and others with individuals, either style requiring groups to complete certain missions.

That's my take, partly influenced by a table-topish (or maybe sit-around-the living-room-ish) RPG, based on the show, that I am aware of.

Wadya think?

Frank Frazetta, Fantasy Illustrator, Dies at 82

GeeCee alerted me to this. Of course Frank painted many subjects including Conan, but I know his work from a completely different venue.

This painting, shown on Frank's obit on the New York Times site, is very familiar to anyone who has served as part of the U.S. Army's Third Armored Corps (III Corps). Their headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas, has many renderings of this painting, where the figure is interpreted as a Phantom Warrior, a nickname for the Corps dating from World War II.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sojourner: Encounter at Ground Zero

Starfleet Communique (Handle Via Top Secret Channels):
STARDATE: 87951.02

FROM: Rowan A. Starblanket, Commander, U.S.S. Sojourner
TO:  T'nae, Admiral, Starbase 39
        Jorel Quinn, Admiral, Chief of Starfleet

RE: Hobus

In Brief: During Sojourner's recent mission to the Hobus System, we discovered disturbing evidence that neither the supernova which occurred here nor the resulting shock wave which destroyed the Romulan Star System were natural phenomena. That, in fact, someone committed genocide against the Romulan people.
Due to the advanced sensor equipment installed aboard Sojourner, we had been assigned to conduct a survey of the planetary remnants in the Hobus System, epicenter of the Hobus Supernova which destroyed the Romulan Star System, some 500 light-years away. Upon entering the system from warp, Sojourner was confronted by the I.R.W. Sithesh, commanded by a Reman, Karatek. He begrudgingly permitted us to conduct our research, but warned us that they would be watching, whereupon the Sithesh cloaked. However, we were able to track the Reman vessel through inferential analysis of sensor effects.
We approached Hobus III and discovered the presence of protomatter in what had been the planet's core. While investigating some unidentified metallic planetary fragments nearby, Sojourner came under attack by the Sithesh, which had been shadowing us. After several harrowing passes, we had sustained damage to the secondary hull but managed to disable Sithesh's weapons; after which Karatek cloaked again.
Proceeding to Hobus II, we encountered Reman birds-of prey that attempted to interfere with our mission. We disabled the ships and collected samples from the core of Hobus II. At this time, my science officer, Lieutenant Commander Ymiro, reported that sensors had picked up a shield signature on one of the remnants of Hobus I, which was closer to the Hobus Cinder than we had originally planned to venture, due to excessive radiation from the Cinder itself.
After consulting with my senior officers, I decided to investigate the shield. It turned out to be a containment field for an atmosphere inside a large crater on the planetoid's surface. After another confrontation with the Sithesh, I beamed down with an away team to investigate the Remans' activities, while Sojourner's engineering crew conducted repairs.
The away team met with heavy resistance from the Remans on the surface. Our investigation turned up weaponized decalithium, protomatter, and tekasite, the same suspicious compounds found in the Romulan planetary remnant after the supernova; however, we also detected seismic activity in the area. The base's power was being routed in such a way that the planetoid itself was becoming unstable. Lieutenant Commander Brasseaux, my chief engineer, was able to reroute power in order to stabilize the planetary tectonics, but at the eastern power conduit control, we were once again confronted by Captain Karatek. He employed photonic soldiers in the skirmish, and several members of the away team suffered major injuries, including myself.
Keratek beamed away and we were able to evacuate the away team. I tried to warn Keratek of the planetoid's instability and the dangers of the substances he was experimenting with; but he would not listen to reason, ordering another attack on Sojourner. After a protracted battle wherein we must have disabled their cloaking device, we destroyed the Sithesh.
I regret the necessity of that action. The Remans working on the surface of Hobus I are in extreme danger, both from the potential failure of the shield they have in place and from the instability of the planetary remnant itself. I do not believe they are aware of the role their research may have had in the destruction of their homeworld.

Sojourner is returning with all possible haste to Starbase 39 to submit our findings and samples to Starfleet Investigative Research, as well as conduct more extensive repairs.



OOC: I was very interested in this mission, given that I am in the middle of reading The Needs of the Many, which deals with the time period of Star Trek Online.  And the Hobus supernova figures prominently in at least part of the book. It's kind of like I was making history, not! Anyway, I really am enjoying the developing story of the Long War, as I am sure Cryptic would like to call the years that players continue subscribing to play STO. I should have written this when the details were fresher, it might have might been more interesting. 

This also marked the first time I played on the Advanced (middle) Difficulty level. It was harder, but not impossible to finish, and was the source of my crew's injuries. Rowan ended up with a critical head injury, and Rowan, Tarah, and Larrea all had major burns. I did however pick up some good uncommon loot, so maybe it was worth the time and challenge. I do like that Cryptic made the Death Penalty optional, keeping the missions on normal (easy) difficulty will preclude the possibility of injury. I think I will keep things on Advanced and maybe even go to Elite when I get better gear.

On a side note, Rowan made Commander 8 turning this mission, and I was finally able to capture (a little) STO's version of THE GLOW!
Heh, this post is dedicated to Captain Ruz, I lifted his format unintentionally.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Broken Pics

I have noticed that many of my pics are broken. I am trying to figure out the problem, because I was getting a different from my house tan I am here in Germany. So please bear with me as I figure out this problem over the next few days.

Tales from Tortage: Chamomile and the Duchess

Chamomile strolled through the marketplace of Tortage. While it was still fairly early, most vendors had arrived at their stalls and were preparing the displays for the day's bargaining. It had been a long night, and Chami had yet to return to her bed at the Thirsty Dog. The old man on White Sands Isle had helped her in discovering more about her past prior to the shipwreck, but there many gaps still.

Arias had given her much to ponder. As she wandered past the vendors, browsing their wares without really seeing them, a rather finely dressed woman standing in front of a poultry stall attracted her attention.

"Excuse me, milady," Chami greeted the woman. "Forgive me for saying this, but you seem a little over dressed to be selling chickens."

"Silly girl, I am not selling this rubbish. I am only out because I cannot bare to sit in my mansion these days. Oh, how I wish I could book passage back to Aquilonia."

"Ah, you are Aquilonian?" Chamomile asked with sudden interest.

"Of course, girl. I am Junia, of House Tarant, one of the oldest noble houses. The Tarants founded a dynasty in Tarantia, before the unification of the Aquilonian kindoms. You, on the other hand, have the look of the Southern Hills about you, if I am not mistaken."

"Hmm, yes, mayhap," Chami responded guardedly, storing the new clue to her identity away. "What is wrong with your mansion, that you do not wish to be in it?"

"Pirates, unchecked by the Red Hand, stormed the house some weeks back, and plundered most of the precious things inside. Since then, my house slaves have slipped away one by one. They are gone, camping with the pirates, and living off the profit from my family heirlooms. And there is no one left to maintain the house. Damn them all!"

Thinking of her own recent change of fortune, Chami looked up at the noblewoman with little sympathy. "You should let them be. They took their chance at freedom."

"What do you know of it, girl?" Junia replied haughtily, "Clearly you have never been in a position to own a bar of soap, much less a household which needs caretaking. I paid for my servants and they had a good life, considering their station. They deserve justice, not freedom."

At this point, Chami could think of nothing else to say. Junia looked down at her with a sudden idea. "You apparently have some fighting skill. I would be avenged of the wrongs done to me by those pirates and my ungrateful servants. How much would it be worth for you to take care of this situation for me?"

Chami gazed at the woman through narrowed eyes. "I must think upon this. Perhaps I will discuss it with you later, milady. Farewell."

OOC: This was the first quest in AoC I decided (at first) not to take. Normally, I am fairly mercenary about taking quests; after all, they're simply XP. Plus, WoW rarely, if ever, presents this sort of moral dilemma. But from a former slave's viewpoint, especially one I think would possess a higher sense of justice as a priest of Mitra, this seems an untenable quest to undertake. After thinking about it though, and looking into Junia and her quest, I realized the pirates she was referring to had given Chami a lot of trouble, chasing her through the streets of Tortage and even killing her a couple times. So I may end up taking the quest after all, out of my own sense of revenge.

And to answer a question posed by Adventure Historian, I am enjoying my time in Hyboria, though I can't wait to get away from Tortage, or be involved in the downfall of its current ruler. I don't know if the current regime remains unchanged at the end of my time here, but I hope not.