Monday, December 19, 2011

Get Your Energy Weapon Out of My Light Saber

Right on the heels of the recent (and may I dare add pathetic) media grab of William Shatner and Carrie Fisher's ridiculous 'Star Trek v. Star Wars' brouhaha, Cryptic Studios has, it seems settled it once and for all ...

And the winner is ... Star Wars.

Facing a potential flight of subscribers from a multitude of MMORPGs to the soon-to-be-released Star Wars: The Old Republic by Bioware, Cryptic it seems as freaked the fuck out and has rushed into two of its games (Champions Online and Star Trek Online) weapons, costumes and and a free playable archtype (CO) that are remarkably similar to those seen in Star Wars.

Also recently seen in STO, are "vedek" robes that were available and then oddly and surreptitiously  removed from the game. One of my fleetmates costumed his toon in those robes before the option was removed but we know they'll be back. This way people can dress their toons like Jedi.

Yep, you read that right - Star Trek Online will now have "energy" melee weapons (some are calling them phaser swords or energy bat'leths) that can be used as a weapon in-game and robes.

So - light sabers and Jedi robes ... in Star Trek.

A Cryptic developer has been credited with admitting to the odd move by Cryptic and that the weapon is meant to be seen as an "homage" to SWTOR.

An HOMAGE!?  Really!? You expect me to buy that line of utter bullshit?

Why would ANY company need to kiss up to a competitor? Puleeze, we all know what this is! It's a complete and desperate scramble to try to keep players, and worse it's utterly insulting to Trek fans.

Cryptic is trying to keep players by putting in knock-off light sabers into its game thinking that the player base might actually stay with STO if they can play with light sabers. As if players only play a game for a certain type of weapon.

It's not an homage! It's a dire attempt to copy one of the main differences between Star Trek and Star Wars and hope that it will bring in a few bucks and crossing fingers that Trekkies won't mind the blending of the IPs.

I'm so incredulous right now, it's hard to think straight.

If SWTOR suddenly put communicator pins, dilithium crystals or transporter pads into their game, if I were a Star Wars fan, I'd be pissed. So why would Cryptic think that as a Trek fan I wouldn't be totally offended by a thinly veiled attempt (or worse, some whipped-up excuse as "homage") to put light sabers into Star Trek?

The fact that CBS signed off on this is no surprise - if it has a chance to make money, then they'll sign off on anything, but I am profoundly disappointed in Cryptic.

A lot of people on the forums had a great idea and one that would sit well with canon-junkies like myself: instead of swords - use Ferengi energy whips. If Cryptic lacks the personnel to accomplish something that wouldn't be insulting to Trek fans - then dammit don't do it, but don't copy Star Wars because it's on the cheap and you can get away with it.

They've already introduced a scathingly vicious economy to a genre where money wasn't supposed to be an issue. They've introduced gambling by selling "mystery boxes" that will only reward an infinitesimal number of players and now they've introduced probably the most insulting thing of all:

Light sabers.

I am making a declaration here and now: I will NEVER use one of these weapons in game. I will boycott their use and stand up for the fans of BOTH genres by supporting what makes both of them so great - and that's what makes them different.

Now if you will excuse me - I need to go tune up my phase rifle so I can shoot the Jedi in Earth Space Dock.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

11-3-11 Just Lie to Me: Star Trek Online

That awkward moment when…
You realize that the game you play can’t possibly make money AND represent the ideals of the franchise on which it was based.

Or can it?

Yeah, I’m talking about Star Trek Online, what else? Over the course of the last three months – since it became clear that the MMORPG would be moving to a Free-to-Play (F2P) model, it’s also become clear that company that holds the license to the game, Cryptic Studios, would need to implement a way to actually make a significant amount of money from it.

From everything I’ve read about MMORPGs – the F2P model is exactly how that gets done. The F2P model simply makes money, and usually a LOT of it.

Unfortunately the world upon which the game is based is more cooperative, and yes – socialist, and implementing a hard “economy” to a game where the players aren’t supposed to be making money is extremely difficult to resolve in the heart.

The game has come across VERY hard times lately.

A decision by Cryptic’s former owner, Atari, to sell the company placed understandable restrictions on news leaks, communications and personnel that squelched the normally vocal company as well as squelched any new content (or relevant bug fixes) from being placed into the game for well over the past six months.

Numerous monthly subscribers I know chose not to renew their subs until the new model is released and probably not even then, unless they’re given a “real” reason to subscribe. (‘Real’ should be taken to mean there is a justifiable and significant difference between being a F2P player [silver] and a monthly subscriber [gold]. At this time, the matrix between the two levels does not, in my opinion, make a monthly subscription a value.)

So the game has been wallowing in its own lack of content; a premature push of “Season 4” which only served to crash and effectively annihilated the only asset that differentiates itself from any other MMO, The Foundry; stacking the C-Store with ships and pets and fluff while its new parent company, Perfect World got into the guts of the thing and decided that they could find a way to sell the heart-machine to the patient.

Admittedly, so goes the ways of business. This shit happens!

BUT what has ultimately frustrated me – probably one of the most loyal players this game will ever see – is the fact that the changes that are being made appear to be utterly slapdash.

I’m getting the very distinct impression that the poor employees at Cryptic are running around like Keystone Cops. (If you’re too young to understand what this means – Google it.)

I started this game as a complete “n00b.” It’s an insult to some, but it’s a freaking badge of honor to me. I had never played any other MMO or console or other type of game to the degree I have played STO. I will always look at this game and offer opinions about it based on how terrifying it was to type in my password and click on “Engage” for the first time.

You laugh, but it was terrifying. I had NO IDEA what it was like and I was afraid people would be horrible to me.

As you all know, Star Trek brings out the best in people. It’s why Trekkies are so passionate about the franchise – if we get “nasty” it’s because we see the franchise being diluted or twisted into a cookie-cutter clone of other less hopeful or paranormal sci-fi franchises. Frankly, we simply love what makes Trek so different from other franchises and we don’t like it when we see corporations trying to punch our square peg into the other franchises’ round holes.

But, as the economy changes in Star Trek Online have come in, piecemeal, in frustrating waves of confusion which leads to ire and anger leads to hate…

…wait – wrong genre… sorry. ;)

But you get my point. I’ve been feeling like I’ve been testing an unfinished product, only to proffer an opinion, only to be told – “Wait don’t offer your opinion yet, because we’re NOT DONE”; and then another HUGE piece of this economy gets thrown in, which I try to learn; only to be told – “Wait, we’re NOT DONE and another piece of the game gets thrown in – which I try to learn…

Getting the picture here?

Yeah, I gave up.

I haven’t played the game, with the exception of attempting to play a few Foundry missions for review for Podcast UGC in three weeks.

I was tired of not having anything to do in the REAL game. I was tired of feeling like I was useless in the FAKE GAME because I can’t render a useful opinion because the parameters keep changing.

My husband briefly mentioned that he may try the game. Nothing would have made be happier six months ago, but I haven’t had the heart to tell him I haven’t played in 3 weeks.

So this morning I got snippy. I got snippy on Twitter because I don’t like to be snippy in the forums. I WANT to be constructive there, but every time I start to say something, I’m shut down by yet another piece of the game that MIGHT alter my opinion.

So I started to tweet sarcastically about how Picard and Kirk and Sisko and Archer all needed to find ore to refine in order to get crystals so they could go back home to Earth and trade it all in for – oh….torpedoes or some such shit.

I realized I was getting angry and then took a deep breath and tried to clarify my thoughts and have come to this:

1)  An economy in a F2P MMO is a necessary evil. I can live with one that works fairly.
2)      Cryptic is holding back promised material in order to make their conversion to F2P look cooler and bigger and more spectacular and as such;
3)      Subscribing to STO at this time is a huge waste of money.
4)      Participating in the test server is also, at THIS TIME, a personal waste as proffered opinions become irrelevant every Thursday (patches). Why waste your breath or your time typing out ideas? Let’s get the ENTIRE thing out there and THEN let us figure out how to screw each other so Cryptic can put in firewalls or create a new kind of lubricant to ease the pain.
5)      Cryptic is NOWHERE near ready to push this conversion. If it happens before 12/31 it will undoubtedly suffer the same ramifications the game did during the Season 4 fiasco. Let’s face it Cryptic, you’re already losing monthly sub-holders, what’s a few more if it means you’re relying on the Silver players any way? WAIT TIL IT’S RIGHT!
6)      THIS KILLS ME!!!  The Foundry probably isn’t Perfect World’s idea of a viable product. It won’t make enough money to justify personnel. I give it 6 months before they execute it. I just get the feeling it was nothing more than an experiment to see how well the tools might work in Neverwinter – a game that will be much more Foundry based. They’ve already moved the two Foundry QA people out and into other positions. I just get the feeling they’re washing their hands of it.

It should now be noted that while I was typing this dissertation, yet ANOTHER post of changes has come out. Luckily it doesn’t render the majority of my rant invalid.
They’ve come up with a couple of ideas that supposedly make subscribing to the game AFTER it goes F2P more worthwhile. Admittedly, here, I am biased. Since I am a lifetime subscription holder (and was BEFORE the game EVER went live) my opinions ARE irrelevant here. I’m NOT sure what a monthly sub holder will see as being worth $12-$15/month as opposed to just playing and dealing with the new format for free and then paying for C-Store points (or just quitting the game) when they get too frustrated to play a game that should be fun. (Ooops, I let my snark out there a bit, didn’t I?)

So here – since this is MY blog and it comes with a whole COMMENT thingy – why don’t we just open this up?

Look, if I’m totally wrong about stuff – let me know. I can take it. I WANT to be wrong! Give me reasons why you think the new economy will work and that we will still have the same caring community this game has enjoyed since it began!

Tell me why fleets will be stronger than ever!

Tell me why crafting will be SO FUN!

Tell me why people should play this game after it goes free to play.

Tell me how Star Trek it will be…
SOMEONE! PLEASE! LIE TO ME!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Today's Rant: I Know What a Hero Really Is

So today a comedian killed himself and murdered his friend.

I’ve read a plethora of tweets saying what a “hero” Ryan Dunn was.

Yes, a “hero.”

I knew little of Dunn as one of the very few clips I’ve seen of him involved a sequence of his placement of a toy car into a condom and having said trinket placed up his rectum for laughs which were really made at the expense of the physician who x-rayed him.

He got those laughs to be sure. I don’t deny it. He made millions of people laugh at his amazingly crude humor. At times I laughed myself – mainly at the idiocy shown by him and his fellow “Jackass” compatriots.

But really – is that all it takes to make “hero” nowadays? Making people laugh for being, well, a jackass?

Hero: he•ro  [heer-oh]
–noun, plural -roes; for 5 also -ros
1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal


So, there’s the definition of “hero.” Unless people were tweeting that they thought Ryan Dunn was a sandwich – this is the definition to which they are equating him. Seems a lot of people felt that Mr. Dunn lived a “life of distinguished courage” and was “admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities” and was “regarded as a model” and an “ideal.”

Wow – yep, making people laugh automatically makes you brave and noble and I should try to aspire to be like you, especially when you are able to make them laugh by being physically violent with others and oneself.

Sure, I get the joke. Dunn WAS breaking rules that I personally find outrageously puritanical – the ridiculous fa├žade of our American psyche. He challenged those ideals by spitting in directly into the face of them. For that, I will happily admit, I appreciated him.

He also appears to have gotten himself so drunk he drove his Porsche into a forest, slamming into a tree so hard that it burst into flames – killing himself and murdering his passenger.

Yep – that make a hero alright.

I admit I got angry when I read the mountain of tweets from people calling him a hero. And I got slammed on my own facebook account for calling those idiots out for being, well, idiots.

I can sympathize with people when a favorite entertainment personality passes. I was bummed out when Clarence Clemons died from a stroke a few days ago. I was bummed when James Arness passed away. I was bummed when Jeff Conaway died. I was saddened when Elizabeth Taylor died.

And for the most part, with the exception of the late Ms. Taylor (whose constant philanthropic work I have more knowledge of than any of the others), the rest I never would have considered “heroes.”

All those people made people laugh, cry and feel something meaningful about their work. And yes, I wholeheartedly admit that Ryan Dunn obviously made people feel something about his work – but did his work really reach the point of “heroic” stature?

Should there be statues of Ryan Dunn in his hometown?

Should little children watch re-runs of his shows and have their parents hope they will aspire to be more like him?

Or should the minute, scorched carcass of his Porsche be set on the corner of his hometown’s major intersection with the sign that says “Drunk Driving Kills?”

I’m reminded on a daily basis that there are young men and women who are in our armed forces and serve in our fire departments and police departments who are losing their lives every day to make our lives safer and defending our right to laugh at people who shove toy cars up their asses.

I can’t and I won’t apologize for refusing to say that Dunn was a hero.

I can’t and I won’t apologize to people who think I shouldn’t be angry at people who think Dunn was a hero.

But I will always thank those people who really do meet the definition listed above.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Star Trek: Vanguard - A Breath of Fresh Trek Air

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a formal book review. It’s also been too long since I’ve been able to gush about any.

Maybe that’s because it’s been a long time since I’ve had the time to sit and actually read books.

Last fall I was given the opportunity to read and review the first book in the new Star Trek series: Starfleet Academy. These are series of books meant for the young adult market and set within the characters of the 2009 film “Star Trek.” This is also commonly referred to by fans as the “Abramsverse” or “NuTrek.”

While I read the first few chapters of the first book in the series entitled “The Delta Anomaly,” I got hung up on the first paragraph of the fourth chapter and nearly flung the thing against my office wall.

Anger and extreme disappointment barely describe how I felt at that moment.

I haven’t picked up the book since.

Nothing against the author mind you, he was just playing to his demographic (21st Century teens), but that one paragraph summed up everything I loathe about “NuTrek” – what I see as a complete destruction of characters who used to have character.

I won’t tell you what the paragraph said, but I will tell you that if you are a mother or father of young female children, don’t recommend this book to them for it will only serve to reinforce gender-specific stereotypes – stereotypes I always had hoped Trek writers could, just for once, not rely upon because they’re just easier to use – especially in the time period of The Original Series.

So imagine my surprise when I began to undertake reading a series of books, set in the time period of The Original Series (The “Prime Timeline” – not NuTrek) where the authors actually overcome the fact they’re burdened with a canon that contains miniskirts and boots.

I began reading the Star Trek: Vanguard series just after my attempt at reading the Starfleet Academy series and since these books are what I had always hoped to see, I’ll recommend these books over any so-called young adult books currently being published.

I’m dead serious. If I had a teenager (male or female) who was remotely interested in Star Trek because of the new movie, I would buy every single one of the Vanguard books and hand it to them with a bow and say “THIS is Star Trek.”

I will admit, it’s a bit easier for these authors to avoid the automatic pitfall of fandom rage about “messing with their characters” because canon characters, by and large, aren’t in these books.

Maybe that’s what makes them so special.

The Vanguard series currently has five books to its pedigree: Harbinger by David Mack (2005); Summon the Thunder by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore (2006); Reap the Whirlwind by David Mack (2007); Open Secrets by Dayton Ward (2009) and Precipice by David Mack (2009).

There is also a set or stories of Vanguard contained within the six-part prequel in the Corps of Engineers book entitled Distant Early Warning by Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward (2006).

Forthcoming tales are:

Declassified; a set of short stories based on the Vanguard station by Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, Marco Palmieri (whose take on the station I am most eager to read) and David Mack. This book is due for release in the very near future.

What Judgments Come by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore which is set for release in September of this year and;

Storming Heaven by David Mack, due for release in 2012.

Now to get to why I enjoy these books so much:

Simply put, these are the books that “fill in the blanks.” They accomplish what so many people yearn for in Trek – new stories, new tales with new characters – without ever diminishing or tarnishing canon characters.

The book series is set on a starbase (Starbase 47 – a nice wink o’ the eye right there) on the edges of “The Taurus Reach”, an expanse of unexplored space with borders that touch upon Klingon and Tholian territories – species with whom the Federation has never really quite developed fruitful relationships.

Always skirting around the edges of impending war, the station was built virtually in secret in order to press the Federation’s presence into an area where three years before, an amazing discovery was made. The discovery prompts the Federation to build Starbase 47 as a base from which the Federation might be to not only mine its potential, but also in as an effort to hide the discovery from potential enemies who may want to use that knowledge against the UFP.

The command of the station and recipient of the weight of the stresses that come with such responsibility is Commodore Diego Reyes. He is gifted with a staff of pros: a human JAG officer Captain Rana Desai; a Starfleet Intelligence Officer, the Vulcan T’Prynn; Diplomatic lead, a Chelon named Jetanien; CMO Dr. Fisher and scientific genius, Lieutenant Ming Xiong – and he tries like hell to lead the group through truly undiscovered country.

The station has three ships assigned to it, the U.S.S. Sagittarius, commanded by a Deltan man – Captain Nassir; the U.S.S. Endeavor who is lucky to be under the command of a female human, Captain Atish Khatami and the U.S.S. Lovell a Starfleet Corps of Engineers ship whose CO, Captain Daniel Okagawa and SCE Lead Mahmud al-Khaled oversee the regular flow of miracles performed by their less-than-regulation crew. Other civilian human and alien characters round out an incredible universe which becomes a joy to swim in.

But here is where I really need to voice my personal reasons for loving this series:

I am a notoriously unforgiving person when it comes to the characterization of women within the Star Trek universe (regardless of the time period.)

It comes from the stance that I believe that women will be treated as equals and will expect nothing less in 200 years’ time. I do not tolerate the writers’ crutch of stereotypical behavior of 20th Century women being invoked upon a 22nd Century woman who has supposedly lived without such stereotypes from the moment she was born.

There may be miniskirts in these books, but let me assure you, these women do not wear them to get men.

These books are stuffed to the gills with real, human (even if they’re alien) women. They don’t take shit from men because they’re women. And better yet – to date, NONE of the men ever treat a woman as a subordinate merely for having breasts and a vagina.

Not once is a man written to treat a woman without the person-to-person respect that its automatically due because she is in fact, first and foremost – a person.

Sure, there may be sexual tension and relationships, but hell – that goes BOTH ways! And these books let that happen naturally – not because a guy’s always a letch and not because a woman is supposed to be a virgin-whore.

There’s even a thoroughly believable homosexual couple and their sexuality isn’t even an issue – as it shouldn’t be in any Trek tale.

The “off-duty” relationships in the books are real, powerful – sometimes gut-wrenching and painful, sometimes funny and charming, but it’s the “on-duty” relationships that I could sing about. The level of real professionalism is perfectly mixed with what I know is possible in a paramilitary setting and Mack, Dilmore and Ward have nailed it.

That’s all there is to it.

I would never hesitate to hand these books to any young woman (or man) and say – just try, try to do half as good as the people in these stories, and you’ll be just fine.

And really, that’s what I seek from Trek anyway – stories that tell me that yes, things are still going to be tough in the future, but there’s always hope.

I am now officially hooked. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

If you’re interested in this series, you might find it very difficult to find the printed version of the 3rd book, 'Reap the Whirlwind.' I have no clue why the publisher can’t seem to place this title out for reprints, but they have not. If you own an eReader/Kindle, etc., do yourself a favor and just download it. You will avoid a huge hassle and an extraordinary price-tag for the printed version. (I ended up paying $17 for a used paperback from the Public Library in Houston! It still has the stamps and tags on it!)

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Have This Idea ...

Hello All!

It's been awhile yes, but you should know me by now - I blog when the mood tackles me, chokes me and threatens me with personal implosion.

So - yeah. :)

Last week I was asked by an online acquaintance - @DantesSTO - to participate in a podcast for the relatively new website Starbase UGC. Starbase UGC is a hub for tutorials, chatting and reviews for "user generated content" for the MMORPG Star Trek Online or "STO."

For those of you who don't know what that means: if you've ever heard of a computer game called World of Warcraft (WoW) then you may glean an idea as to what an MMO is. An MMO is an online computer game that allows for real-time interaction with other players in the same computerized "universe" so-to-speak. STO is this type of game. You create a character (sometimes referred to as a "toon") and that character moves around and interacts with other players' characters.

Within the realm of STO your character is considered to be a Starfleet, or if you prefer -- Klingon, captain and you are assigned to a starship and complete "missions" that are received from your commanding officers generated by the game. You can undertake most of these missions alone or, you can team with other players in groups of up to 5 to play the missions together.

All in all, it's an incredibly social and very fun game to play.

Over the course of the past year since it was released, STO has undergone some major improvements with regards to the quality and quantity of missions one can play. For players like myself who are more "casual" (meaning I don't have the time to play non-stop for days on end,) I've never really had to worry about the so-called "lack of content" that more active players had complained about over the past 6 months.

However, one of the more recent improvements to come from the game developer, Cryptic Studios, has been what has been called "The Foundry."

When I read about this, I flipped out with excitement.

The Foundry is where players will be able to write, create and develop their very own missions for the game! This is what's called 'user generated content' and I truly believe it will ensconce STO as a game that needs to be played for years to come.

Starbase UCG's site is focused on helping players utilize The Foundry and its incredibly complex set of tools in order to make a mission that others will want to play.

All in all this is a fan-ficcer's dream really: the ability to tell a story within the universe of Star Trek and convert into a mission that others can share.

Of course - there is a possible downside to this: the very real probability that as with most fan-fiction, a majority of it will suck hairy donkey balls, but there is a rating system built in and players who appreciate quality story-telling and mission building will, on the average I believe, promote the better-made missions to flourish.

And here's where my BIG IDEA comes in and I'm hoping that the eyes and ears of Cryptic are willing to just hear me out on this.

One of the features that was made available to lifetime subscribers and now "veterans" of the game has been the ill-fated Captain's Table area.

Ill-fated you ask? Well, yes really. Within the game, the area is nothing more than another "starbase" for your character to change clothes, outfit their ships and get their mail. It's a pretty dead space because it already sits just a few kilometers away from Earth Spacedock which already provides the players everything they need without having to go to the "special" Captain's Table.

Trek fans who have read any good portion of Trek books published in the past few decades will be familiar with the roots of this concept. The Captain's Table is a place created for the official writers in order to provide them an avenue to tell short stories and other works from a myriad of different Trek character perspectives.

Essentially the Captain's Table is a bar set in another dimension and accessible only by starship captains from any time and from most anywhere. The bar is manned by "Cap" (of course) who tends the bar and serves the captains their favorite libations - for a cost of course.

And what is that cost?

A story.

In the books, patrons of the Captain's Table pay for their drinks by telling a tale.

This is utterly missing from the game.

And I propose that the Captain's Table be made into the place where the story-tellers can thrive.

Cryptic! I think you should open the Captain's Table when The Foundry is finally ready to come out of beta and be "the place" where all players can go to "hear the stories" of their counter-parts and undertake the missions that were created by them!

I think you should turn Cap into someone who will reward you with your favorite libation for creating and posting a mission in The Foundry and then be the man you can go to when you are looking for a new mission to undertake.

I dunno - it just made sense to me.

There is SO MUCH that could be done with the Captain's Table and The Foundry together!

Just my two credits... <3

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Journey Begins: My foray into the Star Trek: Vanguard series

Yes, it’s true – I’ve just begun reading the Star Trek: Vanguard series. I’m not sure why I put if off for so long; maybe it’s because the books are set in a time period of Star Trek’s universe that I’ve never been overtly fond of (TOS).

Don’t get me wrong, I like Kirk/Spock/Scotty stuff but my heart was captivated by The Next Generation – when women were more apt to be wearing pants when they scooted around Jefferies tubes.

To date, I have only read one TOS-era novel and that was because it was the only one we owned: an autographed copy of “Black Fire” by Sonni Cooper was given to The Hubby as a gift more than 20 years ago by a friend who met her in Long Beach, CA.

You see, at the time – HE was the Trekkie. Not me.

And HE’S the one who knows every episode of TOS by heart.

I liked Black Fire very much. I especially enjoyed it considering The Hubby never knew I read it when he was on a business trip several years ago - as well as the fact that a woman wrote it.

(I only recently discovered that she lives less than a ½ hour from us now. There are a LOT of sci-fi writers/lovers here in New Mexico. I wonder if it’s because the area is so conducive to creativity. It’s quiet, peaceful and there seems to be an open acceptance of creative people here – much more so than in SoCal believe it or not.)

Oh – hey – I’ll get back on track here. Sorry.

In any event, my interest in ST: Vanguard piqued a few months ago when I realized how much I enjoyed the original characters created by the Star Trek writing team in the ”Starfleet Corps of Engineers” works that I have dabbled in reading. SCE gave me a new set of people to care about and, I think, gave the writers a whole new and wide-open playground in which to have fun.

But SCE is all set in the world of TNG - the time period I'm very familiar with.

I had heard through others here on LJ and on Twitter that the Vanguard series was much the same – a series filled with new and interesting characters that I could “get to know.”

So, last September, I made up my mind to read the series from the beginning, and after what became a truly frustrating effort to obtain all the books currently in print (one of the books in the series has been out of print for awhile and Pocketbooks can’t seem to get its shit together to make it more readily available) I finally landed them all about a month ago.

I began to read the first book: “Star Trek: Vanguard – Harbinger” on Tuesday. I finished it last night.

They were three nights in bed very well spent.

The author of this first installment, David Mack, as usual, really knows how to set a scene and then fill it with interesting and complex characters.

I always wondered whether or not there was some secret challenge between Trek writers to create a challenging foundation for a character just to see how the next writer in line for a series will handle him/her/it. If so, I can see where Mack threw down a gauntlet with the intensely rich character of T’Prynn. She’s all sorts of “messed up.”

Well, one of the other things I appreciated about Mack’s take on a new space station was his ability to bring in the “known” characters from the Original Series and the NCC-1701 and not have them become the focal-point or even a burden to the overall story. It was nice to see them blend in as perfect secondary characters – a transition team if it were. It was a nice hand-off and very well executed.

Mack’s ability to peg Kirk’s character with one sentence never ceases to amaze me. As a matter of fact, I read the sentence: “Kirk stood, apparently for no other reason than dramatic effect,” to my Hubby who laughed out loud.

He then waited two beats before realizing I was reading a Trek book set in “his” time line.

It was then I explained to him that the book contained characters I wasn’t at all familiar with and offhandedly made a comment about the character “Dr. M’Benga.”

I hadn’t seen The Hubby quite that animated before. His eyes widened and he said, “You haven’t seen ‘A Private Little War?’”

I was caught feeling like I was standing naked in a frat party.

To say the least – my admission of guilt only gave The Hubby a reason to come home early on Wednesday night. He kindly sat me down and we watched “A Private Little War” so I could get a better handle on M’Benga.

Who knew!? Star Trek: Vanguard is actually paving a nerd-path of discovery with my own husband!

In any event – as you can tell, I loved the book.

The characters are great – the plot, although nowhere near being fully addressed (it is a SERIES after all) is very intriguing, and I’ve already allowed myself to become infatuated with a character. (Which only means someone will likely kill him off somewhere down the line – so I’m mentally preparing myself for that possibility.)

And that’s why I like Trek fiction’s original characters; precisely because the writers CAN kill off a character and touch the nitty-gritty of those emotions and reactions without fear of getting in trouble for “touching” a canon character.

This is good stuff.

I think the next book is “Star Trek: Vanguard – Summon the Thunder” by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore.

I’m already biting my nails.

Friday, November 19, 2010

So Gamers Aren't So Tough Now, Are They?

As all of you are aware by now, I've been playing Star Trek Online since open beta. I love the game and have 6 alts along with my main and will likely have many more over the course of my future play. I bought a lifetime subscription the very moment it became available.

During the initial growing pains of the game I got embroiled in what became an intensely passionate debate with a gang of STO "gamers" (I define these as people who play MMOs and aren't necessarily "Trek-minded" players) who were literally begging for the developers to create what is currently known as the "injury system" or "the death penalty."

Apparently the game as it was, was just "too easy" for them and they wanted the game to not only be more difficult to play, but for all players to actually be penalized if they died during battle.

Now, for people who have nothing better to do with their day than to become hand-eye-key-binding-joystick-manipulating pros - this was a great idea.

For me however? Not so much.

You see, I actually use my keyboard keys to play. I don't measure my personal self on my prowess at PvP - or even playing a computer game to begin with. I play the game on the whole because it's fun, not because I feel the need to challenge myself with how well I can "kill" (especially in a Star Trek-inspired game.)

I simply didn't think that being penalized for not being as good at killing as other players was remotely necessary.

So I bitched.

I got into that player forum and let the devs know that "gamers" weren't the only ones who could shout.

And I shouted.

And it worked. The developers came up with what I thought was a GREAT resolution to the problem - the current "Injury System."

The injury system allowed players who wanted to be penalized to receive an "injury" which had to be "healed." They did this by selecting a more difficult setting at which to play, meaning that their enemies would be more aggressive and therefore, harder to kill.

Just like in real life (which is what I thought the "gamers" were asking for) receiving an injury would make you more susceptible to getting even more injuries - because we all know that if you're in hand-to-hand combat and you take one in the nards - you're going to be open to a kick in the face when you fall to your knees in pain.

I wrote a blog about my first and ACCIDENTAL run-in with this system in my blog of May 12, 2010 called STO Bloodier Than You Might Think. In that blog you can read how I accidentally took a Lt. Commander on a mission with a bunch of Admirals on the "Advanced" setting - leaving me open to injuries ...

... AND HERE'S THE KEY TO MY WHOLE BLOG TODAY ...

...for which I had to PAY to HEAL.

I played at the level that the "gamers" cried, whined and begged for and I paid 3700 Energy Credits (I only had 8000 at the time) to heal myself.

It was a lesson well-learned and I have always played on the "Normal" setting since - the setting I had always played at - because I suck.

I still belong to a fleet (BTW, a really great one called SancTuarY of Wanderhome!) and I play on "normal" all the time. Recently, I was listening in our "vent" and heard two of my fleet-mates running a mission together, accidentally, on "Advanced."

I laughed my ass off. These guys got pummeled. One ended the mission with 13 injuries. By all rights he should have been transported to a trauma ship. But he limped to Sol Station and then to the Medical Officer and healed himself...

..FOR FREE.

I was stymied.

REALLY? FREE?

WHY?!

Come to find out - the developers were SO GOOD at giving the "gamers" what they wanted in a death penalty, the "gamers" themselves started to whine that they had to pay a penalty for getting injured.

What. The. Fuck.

Now they play at a higher difficulty level and don't have to receive their precious "penalty" because ... why?

I dare say it's because they're pussies.

To the "gamers" in STO: I will no longer take anything you have to say at face value anymore because you clearly don't know what you want.

To to the developers of STO who caved and created the truly intricate "Injury System" so gamers could simply whine that "it's too hard": I'm so sorry you wasted all that money on that code...

When the "gamers" start to complain that shit ends up on the C-Store because Cryptic wants to make money - you might want to remind them of the costs of you undertook trying to create a death penalty system that they refused to use.

Dicks.