Starflight: Copyright protection

(This is part of my journey playing through Starflight. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

warnYeah, they weren’t kidding around with software copyright protection in the 80s.  Or, more accurately, they totally were kidding around, even though they were deadly serious.  It was a weird decade.

Wow… the feels that this screen suddenly gave to me as decades-old memory neurons were fired back up.  Welcome to my crappy spaceship.  Let’s launch this thing and make our fortune!

codeUnfortunately, I’m not allowed to launch unless I enter in the copy protection, which (if I recall correctly) was some sort of code wheel.  A code wheel that I do not have.  GOG.com has my back on this with two options.  The first is a very confusing PDF file, and the second is a handy little application that takes the on-screen clues in and spits out a helpful code.  Thanks, GOG!

After a little launch sequence (ooh, whizzing stars!), I’m in the void of space with nothing on the screen.  Hm.

planetStarflight is very, very menu-driven, and quite reminiscent of the original Wasteland in that regard.  So to access various functions of my ship, I have to talk to a specific crewman to open up that department.  Navigation allows me to fly around my home solar system via the cursor keys.  Nothing like a spaceship making an abrupt, sharp left turn to mimic accuracy!

Operations told me that there’s some good mining on the inner-most planet, so I fly around the sun and see what I can do to land on this brown blob.

As basic as the graphics are, it’s got a nice style to it and there are a few neat touches.  I really like how, when you orbit a planet, you get to see the planet slowly “rotating” in the window.

landAlso, landing uses a primitive 3-D landscape view — hey, back then, anything remotely 3-D kind of blew our minds.

groundNow that we’ve landed, it’s time to mine this planet for all it’s worth.  So my crew all piles into the all-terrain vehicle and starts puttering around on the surface, looking for those oh-so-valuable mining icons (crossed pickaxes).  It’s *amazing* to me how fast all of this is coming back to me; less than a minute out of the ship, and I’m driving around and mining like I used to do back in the day.

I don’t find a lot of stuff my first time out, just some chromium.  But I’ve got tons of space, so I pick everything up.  It’s important to keep an eye on the energy gauge so as to not run out of power and get a big fat game over.  At least the readout there tells you where you left your ship, which is quite helpful.

bonanzaAfter some trial and error, I figure out that my best mining prospects are on the grey and white patches (mountain and snow?) and worst on the yellow and blue (sand and water?).  I don’t quite fill up my cargo hold, but I’m excited to go back to the station and see how much I’ve made.

cargoIn that short mining jaunt, I end up making around 28,000 MUs, which — at least to me — seems like a nice haul.  I will be going right back to do a lot more in the next session, because I want to deck out this ship as much as possible before leaving this system!

WildStar: In the mouth of space madness

m1Some nights you have such great gaming experiences that your finger goes sore from jamming on the screenshot key and you can’t wait to whip up a blog post to share the whole sordid tale.  Last night was exactly that for me in WildStar, as I did my first venture through the “Space Madness” shiphand mission.

Up to this point, shiphand missions have more or less been Alien knockoffs, but this one took… a different road.  My shuttle lands on a space station where — small spoilers — a science experiment’s gone a little wrong and released a ton of space LSD into the vents.

m2Everyone’s gone crazy already and I am next.  I started out with a “sanity meter” that slowly depleted, spawning more enemies as I grew increasingly insane.  Of course, these were all figments of my drugged-out imagination, but still.  By sucking on some fresh air tanks, I was able to get a little more sane.

But who wants to get MORE sane when you have the option to completely flip out?

m3Do… do those security cameras have eyeballs?  Why yes, yes they do.  And I’m not even completely crazy yet!

m4Thaaaaaat’s more like it.  SO MANY RAINBOWS.  I was laughing so dang hard into teamspeak at this point.  Whoever designed this mission must have had the best time ever.

m5Tiki spider shopkeeper was actually functional.  He also sold lemonade.

m6“And then, the furniture started attacking me like I was Gaston in Beauty and the Beast!   …no, I’m being totally serious.”

m7At this point, really nothing could surprise me in this mission.  Although, would punching someone with an eyeball hurt one’s opponent?  You’re picking one of the squishiest parts of the body to make into a weapon.  Next you’ll be beating me to death with a marshmallow baseball bat.

m8The big boss here is Exact Change 3.0, a mobile vending machine that throws drinks at you.  I swear I had a dream like this once.

After this, I found a hazmat suit and got sane again, which was far more dull.  It was still a heckuva mission and a great memory.  I love it when an MMO can make me laugh.

RIFT: Minion mastery

minionsIt’s a strange place to be in when you’re all excited about an expansion releasing for your current MMO but you’re not in a position to experience most of that content.  That’s my choice with RIFT, as I really am focusing on my Rogue (level 47 as of last night!) and content with the knowledge that Nightmare Tide will be there in a few weeks when I finally get to it.

In the meantime, only a few drips and dribbles of the expansion impacted me.  For starters, my health — everyone’s health — practically doubled overnight.  I’m not quite sure what the reasoning for this is, but I’m not necessarily complaining.  I theoretically have access to the new nightmare rifts (although I couldn’t find one) and the sidekicking (but no offers/reasons to do it).  So pretty much the whole of what Nightmare Tide is offering me right now is access to the minion system.

This makes Syp happy.

It’s a small, silly, side system, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that I love to do in MMOs.  The minion system combines basic strategy, collecting, and time mechanics to bring in some extra rewards.  I had two minion slots to start with and purchased two more, then loaded up with the default minion, one from the cash shop (with leftover gems), one from the collector’s edition, and four others that were at the vendor.  That was enough to start having fun sending them out on missions and getting a few rewards back.

Mostly I’ve just been leveling up my minions, which — as far as I can tell — only increases their potential stamina.  Missions cost stamina, and once that’s depleted you have to wait to regen it (24 hours from zero to full, or so Trion tells us).  Some missions cost aventurine, which Darkfall’s masters are undoubtedly irate over, although it’s not clear how one gets more aventurine.  Successful missions, presumably, although I haven’t seen it on any reward lists.

The “strategy” comes with matching up the best minion for the best job, according to symbols.  If only real life was this clear-cut.  A really good match can propel a mission into a five-star success, which brings out the bling.

So far I’ve gotten a few odds and ends, like crafting mats, a dimension item, and some noteriety.  But it’s an enjoyable little system that takes only seconds to interact with.  I probably won’t be seeing minions as quest rewards any time soon, so I’m hoping to find a few via drops.  In the meantime, I have my small army to work with.  Go forth, my minions, and do my bidding!

The Secret Adventures: Ak’absolutely fabulous (Savage Coast #2)

(You can follow my playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page!)

burnFourth Degree (side mission)

  • Time to leave hell behind for a few and head down to the closest thing Savage Coast has for a main street.  There are a few houses, a school, and a gas station, but it’s far less populated than Kingsmouth.
  • When you don’t blink an eye at quest objectives that say things like, “burn corpses,” then MMOs have definitely trained you to treat the macabre as ordinary.  But hey, this is for a good cause, which is to stop the zombies from eating dead friends and neighbors.
  • I don’t even want to think of what’s involved in casually setting a corpse on fire.  Next mission, please!

leagueThe League of Monster Slayers (action mission)

  • Readers, meet John Wolf.  John Wolf, readers.  He’s Jack Boon’s counterpart, a faction-free good guy who’s sitting in front of a haunted kindergarten that has even more corpses draped over mailboxes.
  • Wolf introduces me to the concept of the League of Monster Slayers, an ongoing club of kids who fight against the things that slip in through a crack onto the island.  He also mentions that the Ak’ab are camping around the League’s treehouse, which is all manner of bad news for me.
  • If the word “Ak’ab” doesn’t trigger a psychological reaction in you, then you haven’t played TSW.  They’re giant ground moths that are so dang annoying to fight, mostly because they constantly charge and are found in mob-dense regions.  They are easily my most-hated mob in this game.  Well, I’m sure there might be a few outliers, but when I first went through this zone, I learned to loathe the moths deeply.
  • Well, no sense fretting about it.  I dive into the murky woods behind the town and make a beeline for the treehouse.  It’s a truly impressive structure, 40 to 50 feet off the ground and comprised of two levels.  I have a hard time believing mere kids constructed this, but it’s cool no matter what.  Seriously, if I had a place like this when I was a kid, I would’ve never gone home.  It even has some sort of slingshot cannon on the roof.
  • The book “The ABC of Monsters” is *well* worth a read if you’re up there.  It’s a hilarious examination of many of Solomon Island’s monsters from a kid’s perspective, each done with funny doodles and little notes.  “E is for Eldritch Zoidberg.”  I’m kind of curious who finished the book since the kids weren’t here when the fog happened and that’s when a lot of the monsters started popping out.  Huge props to whoever at Funcom took the time to draw all of this up.
  • Speaking of doodles, it’s time to join the League of Monster Slayers myself, although I’m a little mystified as to why.  At least there are convenient instructions on the table detailing five rites that must be performed as kids would do them.  Alrighty then.
  • The actions demanded are pretty amusing, such as “poke a dead body” and “spit into the black pool,” but the reality usually ends up summoning a strong mob to fight.  No wonder there aren’t many League kids around.
  • At the black pool are a lot of filth infected people who babble crazed nonsense that is seriously creepy to listen to, especially if you have a headset on or the volume way up.  Some beg.  Some weep.
  • The initiation ends at the “God cave,” aka the entrance to Agartha.  There’s another funny doodle sheet-slash-certificate as well as the combination to the League’s safe.  Hmm.

weaponsWeapons of Minor Destruction (side mission)

  • I jogged back to the League’s treehouse and climb up to the second story to crack open the safe.  Inside is a dossier on weapons that the League has stashed around town, which also activates this side mission to go find them.  The mission doesn’t show up if you didn’t know the code from the previous mission.
  • The “weapons” are scattered around town, and really are just triggers for four different types of golems to appear (sand, insect, concrete, and mud).
  • What’s interesting to me is that this is a clever way of telling without telling us more about the League.  These places were important to the kids, such as the fishing hole and the baseball field.  Even though we don’t get to know any of the League outside of Danny, we do get to know a little about them and their lives through these missions.  That’s good storytelling.

The Exterminator (side mission)

  • There’s no story here; this is just a “kill a bunch of Ak’ab and their burrows” mission.  Gladly done, but unfortunately the Ak’ab refuse to stay dead.

phTaking the Purple (sabotage mission)

  • John Wolf is a very mouthy man, in a philosophical sort of way.  I guess he’s not just giving us missions, he’s cluing us into the overall situation on Solomon Island and Savage Coast in particular.  Next up is a trip to the local amusement part, which Wolf says is a bad, bad place.  I shall take him at his word.
  • We’ll talk about the park later, because before I can even get in, I find a corpse propped up against a tree.  There’s a string of corpses leading me down the road and toward a safehouse, around which men in purple patrol.  Phoenicians.  Time to play ball, fish-lovers!
  • The safehouse basement is fortunately empty, although it does have a few simple booby traps to avoid.  The computer down there has a few short but illuminating field reports from the Phoenecian squad leader.  Apparently, they came to the island before the fog looking for plans to the amusement park that the owner or his son might have.  They haven’t found them yet, but have set up cameras around the place to spy on them.
  • Again, I’m not going to talk about the park in detail yet, even though the rest of this mission has me running around in it using a tracking device to locate and take out the cameras.  When I do all four, the squad leader shows up and I take him out even after he throws a dozen or so grenades my way.

blackThe Black House (sabotage mission)

  • So fun story.  Back when The Secret World first launched and all of this was really new to me, the bulk of our guild had leveled up faster than me and was feeding me back terrifying references to this “black house” that I’d be encountering in Savage Coast and how it nearly made them pee their pants.  The more they talked about it, the more I was genuinely freaked out about seeing it, because the unknown and skimpy reports will do that to a person.  Anyway, I think I mentally and emotionally over-prepared for this encounter, because while it is not the most pleasant place in the game, it wasn’t TOO scary either.
  • “You look for evil in a person, you’ll find it,” Wolf tells me.  “Even when it wasn’t there in the first place.”
  • But hey, why not go check out this haunted house anyway!  The story behind the Black House is (to trim it up) that the locals got themselves worked up that a “witch” was living there, and after being influenced by who knows what, a mob torched the house with this lady inside and then claimed she suicided.  Now her spirit guards the house angrily and the townspeople have yet to bulldoze it down.  Good times.
  • What freaked a lot of people out initially is that when you try to run in the front door, you’re thrown back violently.  Returning to the house in anima (dead) form shows you that the lady’s spirit is on the porch, pacing back and forth.  Gotta find another way inside.
  • The Black House is small but really big on atmospherics.  It grows, the walls bleed, and every so often you can catch a glimpse the ghost blowing through.  It’s unsettling, to say the least, even though it’s a stone’s throw from the main road and other players routinely jog through it.
  • The quest has you piecing together the story of what happened to this lady by finding clues around the house.  Upstairs in the bathroom is one such clue, although the door slams shut on you when you try to leave and you have to bash it down as toxic fumes threaten to kill you.
  • Down in the basement is her will, which states that she wanted to be cremated and buried at sea — which is exactly what the town didn’t do.  There’s also a “strange candle” here that doesn’t do anything when clicked.  According to the forums, “Back in beta the candle was a false clue and when you clicked it there was this evil laugh and then the cellar caught fire. I think that entire mission was way more creepy before release.”  The candle-fire effect was removed most likely because it was causing players to kill/grief each other far past what the mission demanded.
  • After deactivating a few wards around her grave, I pick up Carrie’s ashes and take them to the river that flows out to the sea.  Godspeed, ya nutty ghost.  Go find your Patrick Swayze.

Darek Smart predicted PlanetSide’s future… in 2003!

Stumbled upon this glorious quote by Derek Smart over the then-recent news about Sovereign’s demise in 2003:

“Now, who didn’t see that coming? They’d better tell EB quick.  Can’t wait for the Planetside cancelation announcement – assuming they don’t pull an EA and let it rot for awhile :roll:”

It’s absolutely uncanny how he was able to foresee the future of PlanetSide way back then!  Oh wait, it’s 2014 and PlanetSide is not only still operating, it’s spawned a pretty successful sequel.  But still!  It will fail!  It must fail!  The Derek has spoken!

Starflight: Intergalactic nostalgia trip

(This is part of my journey playing through Starflight. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

I may have yammered on a while back about the importance that Starflight held in my life back in the 80s.  It was the confluence of several factors: my obsession with Star Trek, my love of science fiction, and my copious amounts of free time unfettered from a social life.  And yet this game was brutal to me, as a single game over would effectively end that game and require a completely new one (which was compounded by the need to make copies of the game disc to run it on, lest I accidentally auto-save a failed game on the main discs).

And yet I loved being able to make up my own crew, fly my own ship, and set out into the galaxy to find my fortune.  Starflight’s been lurking in my GOG library for a while now, so let’s take it out for a spin — even if it might end up being a short ride.

modeOK, this start-up screen made me laugh, because you have to be pretty old to remember these sorts of menus.  Basically it’s asking me how crappy my monitor is.  Hercules?  I don’t even recall what that is.  I’ll go EGA and thank my lucky stars that I’ll get about four colors.

After a warning screen (games were very heavy-handed about piracy issues and copy protection back then), I get treated to this lovely sight:

titleJust be glad you can’t hear the awful bleeps and bloops that are attempting a main theme but are actually scoring your own personal hell.

stationWithout further ado, the game dumps me into the main space station.  As I recall, this is the central hub of Starflight that functions as a character creator, mission generator, bank, and vendor.

objOperations has an infodump for me, including a few suggestions where to go starting out and these helpful objectives.  Don’t get killed?  Rip off Star Trek as much as possible?  Check!

dodgeOver in personnel, I create my crew.  Once again, I’m going to be pulling names from whoever is currently on my Twitter feed.  Starflight doesn’t give us the best in the graphics department, opting for silhouettes instead of actual art or headshots.  I vividly remember loving the android option because they start with really good navigation and engineering skills, even though they can’t learn anything past that.

Can someone tell me what this human is doing here?  The Egyptian dance?  I mean… I don’t even…

So my crew is (drumroll): Dodge the human, Rubi the android, Pasmith the Velox (big praying mantis), Ardwulf the Elowan (plant-thing), MJ the human, and Ferrel the Thrynn (dinosaur).

crewEveryone gets a spot on the ship based on his/her/its best skill.  Don’t complain to me, it’s a pure numbers game.

gameThe space station bank informs me of two interesting facts: (1) I’m getting a whopping 12% interest, and (2) I apparently spent 200 MUs buying this game.  Guh?  Are we just getting meta and breaking the fourth wall, or did my captain decide to buy some apps before heading out on his journey?

shipAnd finally, it’s time to customize my ship, the ISS Bio Break.  Now, back when I played this as a kid, there weren’t any strategy guides and I didn’t notice that thing in operations basically telling me to stick around this system and mine it to make money.  Instead, I bought engines and spent so much fuel flying to the nearest system that I usually went broke.

This time, I’m being smart.  I load up the Bio Break with 16 cargo pods and nothing else; we’re going to hang around here and mine, mine, mine like I’m a newbie in EVE Online.

It is a good day… to game

cheerAs a gamer, I’m pretty psyched about today.  First up on the docket is RIFT: Nightmare Tide, which should be launching after some downtime this afternoon.  Our guild was properly buzzing about it, especially those who have been sitting comfortably at the level cap for some time now.

While I won’t be jumping right into the plane of water, I do have plans to dive right into the minion system and to hunt down some nightmare rifts to test my combat mettle.  I bought one of the collector’s editions for the goodies and unlocks, since I have no desire to be spending weeks at the new cap grinding currency just so that I can wear earrings.

Then there’s the release of the Dreamfall Chapters on GOG (everyone else got it yesterday).  I signed up for the season, since it had both a discount and included the soundtrack.  And, oh yeah, I’m a huge Longest Journey and Ragnar Tornquist fan.  It’ll be great to have a new adventure game to plunder.

In a couple of days Civilization: Beyond Earth comes out, a 4X strategy game that has several of my friends positively jittering in anticipation.  I’m a little more reserved; Alpha Centauri wasn’t that great, in my opinion, and so I’ll see how the reviews shake out here.  I’m sure it’ll be solid, it’s just that a 4X game isn’t what I’m craving these days.