Archive for February, 2010

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To Boldly Go: Star Trek Online

February 8, 2010

A couple of weeks ago marked a watershed moment in MMORPGs: Star Trek Online wrapped up its mostly-open-beta program, and went live with its early-access-for-preorders launch. Delighted with the quality of the game, we sprung for a lifetime membership, which is approximately as costly as paying per-month for a year and a half. (I wish World of WarCraft would offer such a deal.)

The boys and I have been hooked. (Isaac, the weasel, has remained several levels ahead of me, and is about to get a promotion that will give him access to even better ships.) The game features space exploration and combat, and ground exploration and combat. The missions are described as “episodes,” and, like the plots of a television series, often require following unexpected developments and changing tasks as the plot unfolds across planetary surfaces and space. Each player captains his or her own starship, outfitting it with weapons, equipment that gives bonuses, and senior officers who also provide special abilities. I’ve attached a couple of screen shots of the gorgeously-rendered space exploration scenes below. The planets are beautiful, often including moving cloud layers that partly cover the ground below, as well as appropriate atmospheric illumination by the planet’s star, depending on one’s location in orbit.

The USS Naomi, approaching a planet within the Delta Volaris sector.

The USS Naomi, approaching a planet within the Delta Volaris sector.

(My first ship is named the USS Nichelle.)

The USS Naomi, exploring a system in the Delta Volaris sector.

The USS Naomi, exploring a system in the Delta Volaris sector.

Ground locations are often also highly detailed, with a wide variety of plants and terrain. Some of the outdoor ground locations (there are also caves, and starbase and other complex interiors) sometimes seem very reminiscent of the ToS set locations, although generally with more detail than the show’s budget allowed.

Combat and exploration are both integral to the game. Combat is far more skill-intensive than most MMORPGs, particularly as one commands an “away team” to whom orders must be given, and as space combat works in three dimensions and often against multiple enemies. Some missions automatically draft the cooperation of other players, and nearly everything can be accomplished by choice as a teamwork exercise. Like the best MMOs available, there are also large PVP combat areas where players can earn even more rewards.

The game is still in early release, and is apparently only going to get better, but it still shows some weaknesses of an early release with higher-than-expected levels of demand on its servers, and some frustratingly common bugs, such as the game locking up.

Overall, though, our romps through the Star Trek universe have been delightful, with much future enjoyment anticipated.

Addendum, Stardate 201002.18: I am fully convinced that this game was worth every penny. Even my beloved World of WarCraft has never captured me with this intensity.

Beaming out after an away mission.

Beaming out after an away mission.

Rescuing diplomats taken hostage; the end of a truly well-crafted mission series.

Rescuing diplomats taken hostage; the end of a truly well-crafted mission series.

Scanning with my tricorder. What could be better?

Scanning with my tricorder. What could be better?

Approaching Starbase 114.

Approaching Starbase 114.

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Merrimack High School’s Award-Winning Star Wars Parody

February 5, 2010

We were at Merrimack High School this morning for a meeting regarding some testing Isaac had done over the past couple of weeks. It was just after morning announcements, and as we went to our meeting, the music from Star Wars could be heard coming from every room.

I caught enough of the description playing with an apparent news report to later learn that Merrimack High School had worked with New Hampshire-based filmmaker Jeff Capone to produce a Star Wars parody entitled Star Sports, that won for the Best Parody in the Fan Movie Challenge presented by Lucasfilm and Atom at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International.

Star Sports – Theatrical Trailer

Atom.com: Funny Videos | Spoofs | Star Wars Fan Movie Champions
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Ethnicity Conundrum

February 1, 2010

We ran into this problem when registering Naomi for kindergarten, and now, changes in government regulation require Isaac’s school to provide this information as well. According to the school:

  1. The school is no longer allowed to report race as “not reported.” This means we are required to report your child’s race starting with the 2009-2010 school year.
  2. The US DOE has modified the collection and reporting requirements for racial and ethnic data starting with the 2010-2011 school year. They now use a two-part question.

Amusingly, the questions the school is required to ask are as follows:

"Racial" Questionnaire

Now, how in the heck are our children going to pick a primary ethnicity?