A Skyrate’s Life, Part 5: Deus Ex Machina Rain.

A Skyrate’s Life is a series of posts reminiscing about my time in the Skyrates roleplaying community, primarily through posting and talking about my remaining RP channel logs.

First thing’s first: Just in case your browser doesn’t support displaying the title attribute for images, the header today is Captain Remy by the most excellent Tommy Chong, as posted in the Skyrates fan-art thread.

Okay, so part 5 it is. No Mahmoth in this entry, so no Mah-quote in the title sadly. Today doesn’t seem terribly remarkable at first glance, but we see a few more hints of Mairi’s upcoming meltdown (see also: end of Part 4) and discover that her waffles genuinely are “glorious, glorious, glorious!”. Also: Pretty much everyone enters through the Skylight and – surprise – we talk about aircraft and navigators. Again…

New Characters:

  • Jack Cross: Male fox, yellow (Flight School) faction. Seems to be involved in some kind of story with Tommy Chong.
  • Bushido: No DP entry! Apparently has a reputation for explosions.
  • Trystero: Male monkey, blue faction. Ninja! Yet another one of Mairi’s suitors. Markus ends up getting quite competitive with him.
  • Tommy Chong: Confusingly has no entry in DP, but it doesn’t matter. Tommy Chong is as legendary an individual as Skyrates has ever seen. Anyone who spends an extended amount of time around the Skyrates community will have run into at least one bit of Tommy’s incredible fan-art. In character, he’s a male squirrel with a background as a mercenary and pirate. Most recently, he took over a criminal organisation known as the Iron Crescent, although I’m not entirely sure what he was doing back in 2008. The Iron Crescent may be responsible for designing and manufacturing one of the game’s aircraft, the Barashiki.

Notes:

  • This actually takes place the same day (in reality) as the previous log, 18/07/08. Part 4 was logged at 0300 Zulu – the bar’s evening. This one is around 1700 and covers morning and afternoon. I have another one recorded at 0300 on 19/07, so we effectively have most of an entire day in the R&P.
  • How exactly I managed to log everything before the power failure is a mystery to me. I guess I must’ve been constantly copying things over to the log as they happened, because there was no lurker bot in those days.
  • I’ve just taken delivery of my Vengeance which I am completely obsessed about. I loved my Vengeance. Apparently, so did pretty much everyone else – Zekkass had just acquired one and Markus was a well known Veng pilot. The Vengeance is well known for being a twin-hull aircraft with the second hull being just autocannon. It also features a crazy steam-gas hybrid engine which I spend the next few posts working out.
  • Unfortunately, I have no idea what Tommy and Jack’s story was up to now, or where it went from here – only that most of it didn’t happen while I was about.

Today’s chat log below, as always! For previous entries in this series, navigate here.

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The Custom Scrolls: Skyrim, the Creation Kit and Fear

I’ve been playing with the Creation Kit! I even made something. Here’s me complaining about what a pain it was to implement a simple spell. If you’re wondering when the next Skyrate’s Life is going up… soonish. I haven’t forgotten!

Once again, Skyrim has sunk its bloody great teeth into me, but this time it’s even worse – the Creation Kit is here, and it brings with it the Steam Workshop. The workshop simplifies the process of sharing and downloading mods. This is good, because it means quick, easy access to thousands of mods, and steam-style automatic updates. This is bad, because… I needed this time for doing things! Things other than playing with dozens of mods and mucking about in the creation kit, that is.

Seemingly offtopic tangent: I’ve been following a webcomic-interactive adventure-type thing recently. It’s called Prequel, and features the continuing ‘adventures’ of Katia Managan, a basically inept but immensely likeable Khajiit who arrives in pre-Oblivion Cyrodil to try and make a new start. It’s beautiful, wonderfully written and features lovely animated GIFs and interactive flash bits. Kazerad’s put a lot of effort into this. You should definitely read it! Don’t be put off when things look like they’re spiralling downward though, push on through – he’s got a story to tell here.

Why is this only seemingly offtopic then? Because Katia uses ‘Eye of Fear’ (one of the Khajiit racial powers) on a regular basis and with varying degrees of success. For some reason, Eye of Fear didn’t make it into Skyrim.

The Creation Kit appears.

I decided to add Eye of Fear back into the game as a way of learning a bit about the Creation Kit. It seemed a simple enough task to begin with. Here’s how it went…

Spells, Spell Effects and Sounds: Learning to implement a simple Skyrim racial Power in 30 ‘easy’ steps!

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A Skyrate’s Life, Part 4: Th’eejits abound

Man, the Snipping Tool compressor really doesn't like reds...

A Skyrate’s Life is a self-indulgent series of posts reminiscing about my time in the Skyrates roleplaying community, primarily through posting and talking about my remaining RP channel logs.

After the excitement, adventure and really wild things of the last entry, it seems like we’re back to normal today (normal being a relative term of course). We’re back to conversation rather than shooting – although the main topic of conversation is the shooting, naturally. We also see the return of Zekkass, who I pounce upon as if she’s the only sane person in the vicinity (likely true) and the introduction of Josiah, who shoots me.

I think I want to title every post in this series with a Mahmoth quote from now on.

New Characters:

  • Clio: Female cat, newcomer to the R&P. Who’s playing Clio?
  • Josiah: Male giraffe, Green faction. At this stage he’s just out of Flight School, and this looks like his first time here.
  • Phedre Spitfire: Female arctic fox. Now here’s a confusing one. DP has an entry for “Phédre Spitfire”, and her Skybrary article notes that she has acquired some infamy due to the acts of her sister who assumed her identity. Phédre was an important member of Red faction. Who was THIS Phedre though? Fortunately, the ACTUAL Phedre turned up in Skyrates, so I asked her about it. Turns out that Phedre was killed off before the end of the round, her player unaware that RP is persistent and continues after the end of the round. A very similar looking sister was thus created to replace her.
  • Alexandra Borisov: Female fox? While she has no DP entry of her own, she is listed as one of Knappekat’s past crewmembers. It seems reasonable that she’s an alt of Knappekat, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, “Alexandra Borisov” is one of the randomly assembled crew names that the game gives out, so anyone could have found a crewmember with that name and decided they liked it. Update: Phedre Spitfire confirms that she’s an alt of Knappe, and that she’s a fox. Thanks, Phedre!
  • Athrawes: No entry in DP. I can determine that he’s male from his emotes, but nothing else.
  • HK-47: Sigh…

Notes:

  • Okay, so it turns out that Ennia being shot the previous day wasn’t the ONLY excitement. It seems like someone (Silura, apparently) tried to shoot Ellington inside the bar earlier. Busy day! I seem to have been physically present for this event because I describe it later on, but for some unknown reason I didn’t log any of it.
  • Mahmoth called me ‘Webling’! This pleased me.
  • Somewhere before the start of this, Markus changes the dressing on his injury (sustained in the previous evening’s violence). This is what causes Clio to pass out. He apparently dozes off for a while after this.
  • We finally find out just what it is that Markus has been working on for the past few entries! We also discover that Phedre has had some prior association with Ennia’s would-be assassin – according to Mah “th’bugger tried t’rip th’tavern an age’r so ago’n took th’Phe.”
  • This entry had a little bit of strangeness and some outright trolling. I’ve abused my editorial privilege and stripped the trolling out completely – it wasn’t even interesting. Mistakes are left in, even my own. Especially my own! The strangeness? That, I left in. We’re not even getting started, yet…
  • This log itself is in excess of nine thousand words long, number fans. It took bloody ages to put the formatting in, line by line – hence the delay in getting this entry up.

Today’s chat log is past the cut below! For previous entries in this series, direct your Internet conveyances here.

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War Stories: Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 logo

Battlefield 3 is one of the finest multiplayer shooters the PC has seen in recent years. It’s that rarest, most desirable type of game – the one that generates stories almost every single time. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be writing up some of our best war stories for you. Today, General Semseye is here to tell you a little bit about what makes BF3 so special. I’ll be in my ready room, sipping tea.

Battlefield 3 is one of the most atmospheric and intense games I have had the privilege to play. My first go at a 64 player Conquest map was for lack of a better word, “Epic”.  The game is out for PC, Xbox and Playstation 3. As a PC gamer, you can guess what platform I got it on, also the fact that the first game I played was on 64 player map, witch you can only ever get on a PC is a bit of a give away.

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A Skyrate’s Life, Part 3: Action! Adventure! Shooting!

A Skyrate’s Life is a self-indulgent series of posts reminiscing about my time in the Skyrates roleplaying community, primarily through posting and talking about my remaining RP channel logs.

Once again, we appear half way through something and have to work out what’s going on the hard way. For once, this isn’t the fault of my Internet connection – I’m not participating in this entry, I just happen to join the server at this point.

Last week’s entries were characterised mostly by people relaxing and chatting in the tavern, exploring their relationships and the more recognisable, human aspects of their characters. I mentioned in the notes that one of the things that really works about this style of RP is that it gives us a chance to look at the mundane, day-to-day lives of our characters in between the action and adventure.

Our Skyrates don’t have the same sort of lives that we do – I certainly don’t have to fight three groups of pirates on my journey to work. I don’t even fly to work, I use a car! This is because the world hasn’t yet cracked into small islands and floated up into the air. Spending time in the Tavern lets us look at what we’d be like, and what kind of people we would encounter in a world like this.

But then, it’s not always so peaceful around here. When I said ‘between the action and adventure’, I wasn’t merely referring to the flying and shooting that our characters do ‘off camera’. In a world this inherently dangerous, nowhere is completely safe.

It all starts fairly normally. Just another day in the Rotor and Prop…

New Characters:

  • Amelia Brightmoon: Female wolf, it seems. No DP entry, and I didn’t interact with her personally.
  • Knappekat: Male cat belonging to Red. Has appeared before, but for some reason I didn’t write an entry for him then.
  • Jelani Mpunju: Male eland from a distant region. He appears to be here as some manner of ambassador or explorer. He is rarely seen without his spear.
  • Larkos: Male boar. Ooh, a mysterious stranger! No entry in DP, naturally.
  • Ennia: Female squirrel, Green faction.
  • Darkstar (Lars): Ennia’s Brother.
  • Frank Whittle: Male monkey, doctor at the local hospital. He has no entry in DP, and I’m not even sure if he was ever seen again!

Notes:

  • I left my client running overnight to capture the entire event. Unfortunately, it broke and lost connection shortly after I went to bed, so I got very little.
  • At the beginning this entry doesn’t look so remarkable. Amelia and Silura are flirting outrageously just outside the R&P while Mairi is most irritated at for an unknown reason and decides to drink everything. For the most part the other patrons shrug and get on with whatever they were doing.
  • What was the argument in the hangar about? Whatever it was drove Mairi to drink. It can’t have been Markus, as he hasn’t arrived yet. I don’t think Karrde was back at this stage either, so who was responsible for Mai’s foul mood? I fear it need remain a mystery.
  • Towards the end, at least half a line is just not there. This isn’t my HTML or find-and-replace tool screwing up, it’s like that in my original plain text logs. I think I used to just do select all, copy and paste, so I have no idea what happened there…
  • We’ll be able to see the consequences of today’s events in the next log, but the actual EXCITING ACTION is lost. I wonder if there’s another log of this event out there somewhere?

The log – such as it is – is after the cut.

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A Skyrate’s Life, Part 2: Accents!

A Skyrate’s Life is a self-indulgent series of posts reminiscing about my time in the Skyrates roleplaying community, primarily through posting and talking about my remaining RP channel logs.

The first line of this log entry after the {Static} is “Argh, connection failure.” This means that a fair chunk of content is missing again, and we have to work out what’s going on through context. I can’t make sense of the first part, and I was there! Four years ago, admittedly.

I’ve been trying to piece together what happened to the people I used to know. So far, I can see that both Mahmoth and Talon Karrde have logged into the Skyrates forums this month. Zekkass hasn’t been active for years.

I feel really bad about Zekkass. We were working on some fiction together when I just disappeared. I was also working on an in-character engineering project with Copper Cheetah. Just… disappearing without a trace is such an awful thing to do to an RP community, particularly when you’ve worked your way into it and are involved in things. Going through all this Skyrates stuff has made me absurdly angry at myself, not just for screwing up other people’s stories but for denying myself the chance to be a part of all this.

If any of the RP channel veterans see this, for what it’s worth… I’m really sorry for bailing on you.

Enough melancholy recollections. Who’s new in this entry?

Characters:

  • Mairi Valentine: Female cat, current owner of the Rotor and Prop tavern. Exceptional roleplayer. Despite having all kinds of IC personal issues, people being shot and a dozen other things going on, she still managed to find some time to welcome me in and integrate me into their little community. Karrde once called her the “heart of the community”. He wasn’t wrong. Member of the Azure League (Blues). Has lots of siblings and almost as many suitors.
  • Sirrus: Appears to be new. A bear. Nothing else is known about him!
  • Marcus Cunningham: Male fox, airship captain. Member of the Jade Hand (Greens), a group of (not even remotely) neutral traders and profiteers. Often spends more time roleplaying as his crew than as himself.
  • Silura: Female red fox, independent. What was the incident that happened last night that she’s apologizing for? I don’t know, damn it!
  • Cecil Lancaster: Male squirrel, electromagnetic scientist. Blue faction, of course.
  • I can’t find an entry for Moros or Trichechus in the Skyrates Dramatis Personæ, the RP character directory.
  • There isn’t an entry for Skylark Quintessa either, but I think this is the same character as Skylark Cunningham. Her profile on the forum seems to match up.
  • Ellington: Male ferret. Radio personality, nutcase, drunkard and one of Mairi’s ex-es. A notorious figure. Faction unknown. I have a faint suspicion that he was Red at this time.
  • Nero Shade (Sr.): Elderly male squirrel. Rather senile. Enjoys chocolate milk and giving people cheap jewelry.

Notes:

  • This is not long after Mairi stuck me behind the bar for the first time. If I remember correctly, she just dropped herself into a comfortable chair and said something along the lines of “Okay, your turn to serve me for a bit!” This theory is reinforced when she says “I’m taking a day off” later on.
  • This is a lovely (and rare) example of the R&P when there’s not a major disaster in progress. People are for the most part happy or at least contented. It’s this kind of gathering which allows people to catch their breath between events and explore the more mundane (not to be confused with uninteresting) and human aspects of their characters.
  • Mai asked me who else got me? Nope, I don’t understand what the question was either, and I don’t have any idea what the answer means. Everything before the first line has been lost, so your guess is as good as mine. Argh, indeed.
  • There’s some complaining about accents in OOC further down. I loved the accents.
  • There was a ritual for people who were new to the R&P. Whichever bartender was around would ask three questions to the newcomer: Their name, where they were from and where they were headed. Answering was optional, but it was the way things were done. Sirrus was probably the first person I asked the three questions to, although it’s before the {static}. I also would have been the one to tell him that payment isn’t required although restocking the bar is welcomed. This is referenced when Sirrus leaves.
  • I’ve deliberately left all the mistakes in. Removing them would make the log neater, but then it wouldn’t be a true snapshot of what RP was like at this time. Like aggressive editing of documentary footage to change the meaning. Other than replacing the formatting (I only have plain text), I’ve made every effort to leave these logs exactly as they were.

Fer t’day’s log, click ye thro’ belo’ tha jump.

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A Skyrate’s Life, Part 1: Dramatis Personae

A Skyrate’s Life is a self-indulgent series of posts reminiscing about my time in the Skyrates roleplaying community, primarily through posting and talking about my remaining RP channel logs.

It’s 15/07/2008, 0200 local time. That’s 2:00 in the morning, of course. This is what the date and time stamp says on my first Skyrates RP channel log. Unfortunately, a lot is missing – not only the beginning of this session due to a connection failure, but my first entrance into the Rotor and Prop, the introductions of Mairi, Mah, Markus, Burrito Loco and indeed Zekkass. Since we’re missing all that exposition, I suppose I’d better write up what I remember.

The Setting: A tavern called the Rotor & Prop, often abbreviated to R&P or RnP. You can read about the tavern over here. Skytopia is a world of floating islands, although it was not always this way. It is populated by various anthropomorphic animals, and is influenced a little bit by TaleSpin. Piracy is a serious problem.

The Characters: If you keep reading, you’ll learn more about the characters as you see them. With that said, here’s a brief introduction to the key players:

  • Alex Webster: Me! Male fox, recently graduated from flight school. Competent enough pilot, lacking in experience. Also lacking in experience at: Pretty much everything else.
  • Burrito Loco: Elder male donkey. General in the Azure League (blues’) armed forces. AKA “Papa Rito”.
  • Markus Jarnhann: Male bear. Colonel in the Crimson Armada (Reds). Mercenary, but decent sort.
  • Zekkass: Female fox, not long out of Flight School herself. This is probably her first time in the R&P, but her introduction is lost due to a connection failure.
  • Mahmoth: According to his Skybrary entry, he is “a four meter tall, remarkably hirsute, quadrupedal sentient pachyderm of a wandering bent”. The default bartender during the evenings. Will eject or dismantle troublemakers.
  • Rimdar Klall: Male squirrel, famous for his musical trading and musical crew.
  • I can’t tell you anything else about the other participants that you can’t see for yourself – memory failure, lack of interaction or lost notes and logs.

Notes: Since this is the first entry, let’s talk a little about how and why Skyrates RP worked.

  • Skyrates is a long format semi-casual game. Once you take off, it can be an hour or more before you reach land again, and it’s often 10 minutes or more between combat events (which you can optionally deal with, or leave until later). If you’re into the setting (which I was) and wanted to immerse yourself further, there’s the RP channel. I lurked and listened for a while before I jumped in myself.
  • What happened in the RP channel was completely de-linked to what your character was doing in the game world. You could have your character flying about, trading and shooting things down while you were in the tavern in-character. This is one of the factors that led to the Skyrates RP community really working.
  • You can type normally, which is speech. There are also emote (/me or /em) commands, which colours posts and formats them as “Alex Webster does something” and the OOC (/ooc) command which places text in ((double brackets)) and in a different colour. I can’t tell you WHICH colour, because it seems to be different than I remember now. I went through and added formatting in for emotes and OOC, because apparently I have too much time right now.
  • There were no asterisks next to actions ingame. I added those to aid readability here.
  • Player names were in their faction colours, so you could tell who belonged to which faction. This information is also lost.
  • Every time you open the game, {Static} is printed to every chat channel. If you see this, it means that I opened the game at this point, or lost connection and reconnected. I’ve added it to the end too, to show disconnection.

Let’s also talk a little bit about what happens in this entry, which you’ll find below…

  • This isn’t the first time I’ve been in the bar, although it is pretty early on. The R&P is basically on US time, so this is the evening for them (and the very early morning for me).
  • Historian’s note: The planes referenced here are in the correct order for the time. I went from the starter plane (CR-4P), to the Phantom, then Seahawk, then Vengeance. I note this here as it wouldn’t make any sense to current Skyrates.
  • You’ll see a character named Manik and his coffee mentioned in OOC here. We’ll meet Manik later on. It seems like he stuck around far longer than I did, unfortunately (although the only person to blame for me never coming back is myself).
  • This entry is rather long, and nothing very important happens. I’ve included the whole thing, as it’s an introduction to some of the key characters.
  • The other reason for not simply omitting this entry is that it still shows Alex when he was at his most awkward and unsure.
  • Mahmoth is non-anthropomorphic. That means he’s the size and shape of an actual mammoth. How does he fit behind the bar? He just does. Maybe he uses A Plot Device?

Click through to meet some of the key characters, listen to the veterans go on about the Seahawk, see Rimdar put his foot right in it and discover if you really can survive a sea landing in a CR-4P!

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A Skyrate’s Life (for me)

I was a fox called Alex Webster for about 2 months. I recently dug up my old Skyrates RP logs, and it got me thinking about it…

It seems like Skyrates is more or less dead – at least as far as roleplaying goes. You can still log in, the server is still up but it’s… pretty quiet. [Ed: There’s still some activity over there, but all of the people I used to know have moved on]

It was a tiny semi-experimental persistent-world flash game where you played an anthropomorphic pilot in a world of floating skylands. The game was mostly trading and shooting things down, but the catch was that it took several real-time hours to fly from skyland to skyland. The idea was that you could drop in every few hours, shoot a few things down and set up your next few jumps and then get on with something else.

I haven’t touched this game for years. Literal years, the last time I logged in was 2008. What does this mean to me?

I’m really sad. I mean, I left Skyrates a long time ago, but thinking about it now… I really regret leaving when I did.

I remember seeing a picture of a floating battleship on RPS in October 2007 and following the link back to the Skyrates website. “This looks interesting!” I thought. “It appears to be free. I’ll give it a try”. It was quite an enjoyable little trading and shooting game, although the long-format, persistent nature took a little getting used to. It had quite a unique look and feel to it as well.

I remember finding that it had a very active roleplaying community. To date, it’s the best RP community I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. The Rotor & Prop – the bar that the RP channel spent most of its time set in and around – became my character’s home. Before very long, it became the game. I’d still play, but I primarily logged in to roleplay. My character was nothing special, an inexperienced rookie using one of my former aliases (Alex Webster). It was enough for me to bask in the brilliance of the tavern’s other denziens.

I remember Markus Jarnhann, a Colonel in the game’s military faction (the reds). He was my character’s mentor. He taught me to fly and fight, and was at least partially responsible for me buying what amounts to an autocannon on wings. This is the aircraft that prompted the sentence “So, good news! Firing my cannon doesn’t spin me out of control!” He shot people fairly often, but only when they were causing trouble.

I remember Mairi, who was effectively the heart of the roleplaying community at this time. She ran the R&P, eased me gently into the community while at the same time dealing with her character’s own problems. Markus was totally in love with her, but she ended up with someone else – Trystero, I think. Markus, Trys and Talon were all after her, she liked them all but that wasn’t really enough. She spent a lot of time feeling pretty terrible about the whole situation. Meanwhile, a couple of people nearly got killed in various incidents and the bar was temporarily set on fire. Through all this, she STILL managed to send me a smile, let me know how it all works and show all of us newbies how everything looks when there’s not a major disaster.

I remember Mahmoth. No-one messed with him. Once, when the RP channel was dead, he started singing. Mah had an incredible accent! I loved his accent. I once asked him if he wanted to go behind the bar (his customary position), and he replied “Hmn?  Ach, nah, if y’self’s well b’hind’t, all’s salt.” That should give you an idea. Anyway, he’d been sitting on these Mahmothian lyrics for just such an occasion, and his character tapped out the rhythm on various bits of the bar. By the time he was finished, half the bar’s regulars had turned up. It was a brilliant gambit to get all the regulars who were lurking to turn up, and to get the conversation going. Mairi owned the place, but it was his bar, and no-one would dream of (or dare to) question that. He had a habit of appending ‘ling’ to people’s names. “Eyup, th’Ennling” for Ennia. I think he eventually took to calling me “Webling”. That was a mark of respect.

Mahmoth nods. “Seeming’s th’bugger’s t’be a lesson, next time about.”

I have just spent over an hour and a half looking back through my Skyrates chat logs. I have laughed out loud more than once.

I remember that four of us newbies turned up in the RP channel at about the same time. I was there a little earlier than the other three, Zekkass, Josiah and… I think it must’ve been Copper Cheetah. Zekkass and I quickly became a bit of a team, we both drank the same honey ale and flew the same planes for a long time. She joined the reds, the military faction and ended up working with Markus. Copper joined the blues, the science-y faction that Mairi belonged to. With Markus and Zekkass pulling me one way and Copper and Mai the other, I ended up staying neutral through sheer indecision. Markus once remarked that he saw Zek and I as his apprentices, and I suspect that eventually I would have gone red.

I completely forgot about this! Zek and I used to play cards, a game that only existed in the Skyrates universe. It was called Schellen. We had to work out and modify the rules ourselves as we went along. We didn’t have any actual cards of course, so we just played along with the help of notepad and calculator until we ran out of theoretical cards.

I remember Mai and Mah putting me behind the bar for the first time. My character was so proud, and spent as much time tending as possible. It marked my acceptance into this community, both in and out of character. I wasn’t even very good at it – I had a book of cocktail recipes stashed under the counter because people kept asking for stuff I didn’t know how to make – but I was earnest, and always did my best.

I remember the first time Talon Karrde came into the bar. He was one of the R&Ps most famous bartenders – in fact I think he originally owned the place. He disappeared for a long time, but it just so happened that he turned up again while I was active. “Have you met Alex?” Mai said. “He’s your replacement.”

I remember something dramatic and important happening. An assassin turned up and shot one of the major characters, and Markus went after him. I stayed up until about 0500 in the morning to watch it play out. I spent so much time in that RP channel, either participating or idling and watching things happen. Unfortunately, after I finally went to bed my internet connection broke, so I didn’t see what actually happened in the end.

I remember my Logitech G7 breaking – it was double or triple clicking every time I pressed the mouse button – but it would click multiple times in a fraction of a second. This caused flash-based things to break quite badly – they couldn’t parse the mouse clicks that quickly and menus and buttons would stop responding, necessitating a client restart. I stopped playing the game temporarily while I waited for the warranty replacement.

I never went back.

I never made a conscious decision to leave the community. I often regret it. I regret it right now. And with everyone else moved on a long time ago and the Skyrates server next to empty, it’s far too late to do anything about it.

I often wonder what happened to Zekkass, Markus and Mairi. What did they make of my character’s sudden disappearance? I sometimes toyed with the idea of going back and putting together some kind of story about being shot down ditching into the sea, being stranded for months and finally being picked up or repairing my craft. Months became years though, and the likelihood of anyone I knew still being around decreased. And then, there was the fact that I hadn’t even played the game towards the end, I was just there for the setting and that little RP window. Spending all day in there, staying up ridiculous hours – these were not good things. This little flash game was taking all my time up.

Even so, I regret that I couldn’t spend longer with that community (I was there only about two months), and I regret the manner of my leaving. Were you a member of the Skyrates RP community? I would absolutely love to hear from you.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting up my Skyrates RP channel logs. They’re incomplete in many places, but I don’t really expect to find a community like this again, and I’d like to show you why I kept these logs all this time. Maybe it’ll be therapeutic or something too…

Let me tell you about Star Trek Online

 

"Captain, why are we standing waist deep in this coolant?" "Stop talking and look heroic."

STO has gone Free to Play for former subscribers, and the rest of the world soonish. What’s it like?

I’ve been playing STO on and off since about half way through the Beta. I was an early adopter, played in the early access bit and have subscribed and unsubscribed about four times now. I feel reasonably qualified to say that it’s really not a bad game, and that actually it does some things very well. With that said, it does some things quite badly, too. First, let’s talk about the three things it gets really, really right.

The first thing that strikes you is that the character customisation is really magnificent, especially if you’re comparing it to WoW or TOR. It doesn’t just put them to shame, it dishonours them in front of their families, challenges them to a duel and then systematically dismantles them leaving them bereft of the smallest accomplishment or worthiness. What’s more, you can completely re-customise your character at any major station and perform the same level of customisation for all of your officers. Unique looking character and bridge crew? Certainly. Distinctive uniform for you and your officers? That’s there, too.

You’ll see your characters quite a bit, while wandering around the stations and planets that form STO’s ‘cities’ and mission backdrops. The best part of the game though involves NOT seeing your character – Spaaace Combaat! The ship-to-ship battles have always been the most consistently playable parts on both factions. Combat is fluid, fun and – most importantly – feels appropriately Star Trek-y. If you’re a veteran of previous Star Trek titles on PC, I think the best way to describe it is as a cross between Bridge Commander and Starfleet Command. The many and varied bridge officer abilities add a tactical aspect – your choice of bridge officer abilities can dramatically alter both your role and effectiveness in combat.

Your choice of ship class also has a significant effect on how you play. The slow, ponderous cruisers sidle up alongside an enemy and pour broadside fire into them. The agile escorts mount absurdly powerful weapons along the front aspect, but have to manoeuvre hard to keep their bow towards the target as long as possible and spread damage out along its weaker shields. The Klingon bird of prey is even more manoeuvrable, but can’t mount as many heavy weapons and is even more fragile. A bird of prey would be at a disadvantage in any fair fight.

A canny BoP captain takes action to ensure he’s never in a fair fight. The BoP is the only ship class that can cloak whilst in combat, meaning you can drop cloak, sneak attack an enemy with a devastating burst of rapid fire cannons, turn hard to stay out of their primary weapon arcs, recloak and come around for another attack. A pair of Birds of Prey working together can take down even superior combatants if they’re competently captained. The space combat game is pretty deep (like space! Eh). I think the best thing I can say is that writing about it makes me want to patch up my STO client and take my Sovereign out for a spin.

The third thing is really important: The foundry. The foundry is Cryptic’s name for their built-in user generated content tools which allow players to author and publish their own missions within the game. You spend all of your levelling time in STO playing through the episodes (STO’s quests or missions). Once you reach the level cap, there aren’t any more missions. You have fleet actions, the 5-man heroic Special Task Force missions aaand… PvP. There are the occasional injections of feature episodes from the developers, but there’s just no way they can continue producing high-quality content at the rate that players consume it.

The foundry is brilliant. It gives players a huge library of user generated missions to play though. Some of them will be poorly written or riddled with errors. Some of them will just be poorly designed, too hard, too easy or openly absurd. But in my experience, there are enough really good missions to keep you entertained in between doing other things in game (and of course doing other things out of the game. When you feel like it, you just drop in and play a couple of foundry missions). Many of these missions are:

  1. Better written and designed than anything Cryptic have put together, and Cryptic have assembled some pretty good missions over the past couple of years.
  2. Much closer to the feel of Star Trek than many of the official missions. There’s a lot of shooting things in this game – it IS an MMO, after all – but many of the foundry missions involve diplomacy, exploration, investigation, time travel, anomalies… and shooting. Some of the foundry missions are the closest thing we’ll ever get to being in a Star Trek episode – one starring OUR captain and crew!

The foundry gives players a way to tell their own stories, and to explore familiar sci-fi situations. Finally, last time I was active on the forums (a couple of months ago), Cryptic were actually recruiting for I think the first time since the game’s release. They wanted to pick up more mission designers and work on releasing more, better content. Their primary source for new mission designers? The top-rated foundry authors. This is a company that really works hard at integrating and working with the community, and that’s something to support.

What else? Ground combat is… improved. It’s much closer to being fun than it was before. Maybe it’s improved even more since I’ve been away from the game, I don’t know. Regardless, you get to look at your wonderful customised captain and crew! Honestly, I’ve spent more time in the character customisation in STO than I have playing some entire games.

STO has a PvE queue, something which is conspicuously absent from TOR. There are potential reasons for this. It still irritates me to stand around doing nothing but spamming “LF Tank for Hammer Station. Just 1 tank! That’s all we need. There must be a tank out there! Please. We’ve been here for hours.” I understand it now has new and improved endgame PvE content, too, along with splendid new STF armor for both Federation and KDF characters.

The new Duty Officer system is pretty neat. I played with it during the F2P beta, and it’s pretty compelling. It’s main objective is for you to have something to do during downtime, like when you’re travelling across the galaxy. The galaxy’s pretty big, and it takes a while…

Alright, so I’ve reached the point where I’m just saying things that won’t make any sense if you haven’t played the game recently. Computer, activate conclusion Durkonkell sierra two seven.

Conclusion!

I think Cryptic are actually very talented MMO developers. I say this despite the disappointing shambles that was STO on day one (it wasn’t even vaguely ready for release). They have been persistently underfunded (The former executive producer Dan Stahl once remarked that his team was smaller than the team at their local Starbucks) and they’ve still managed to innovate in a couple of really interesting ways. TOR might be ten times more polished, fully voice acted and have more content than I can comprehend, but you still can’t re-customise your character after initial creation. Even WoW has this (although it took blizzard five years to actually implement it in game), and it was a day one feature for STO. The foundry is a significant unique proposition, and it’s likely to be expanded – there’s talk of customisable ship interiors and fleet (STO’s guilds) starbases. I would love to have seen what Cryptic could have done with a TOR, Warcraft or Guild Wars size budget.

It has its flaws still (it really does), but it’s not at all the same game as the one that launched a couple of years ago. If you have even the vaguest interest in Star Trek, you should absolutely check it out when it goes free to play for everyone (17th of this month). If you’re not interested in the Star Trek angle, that’ll probably reduce the game’s appeal and enjoyment for you (half the fun is putting yourself in Captain Kirk’s Picard’s chair), but you may still enjoy the excellent character customisation, ship combat or UGC tools.

Questions? Set course for the comment box below. Engage when ready.

Damn it. Now I want to play this again…

This is Beast Mastery in 4.3

Grrawrraar!

A comprehensive guide to Beastmastery Hunting in 4.3, with an emphasis on PvE

A full expansion on from the last This is Beast Mastery, and so many things have changed! Some things haven’t changed though – we’re still considered to be the lowest of the hunter specs. What is the truth of the situation, though? Is BM raid viable? Are Beast Masters statistically the kindest and most handsome of all hunter specs? Will you find the spec, shot priority and other details past the cut? Yes, yes and yes.

Clicky!

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