Saturday, April 13, 2019

Star Control II: Building the Empire

The aptly-named "Orz" do indeed make me want to kneel down and bang my head against the floor.
         
If I do end up running out of time and having to start over with Star Control II, at least I'll get to revise my decision to name my new alliance "The New Alliance of Free Stars." I didn't realize I'd be giving that name to everyone I meet. Next time, I'm going with "The Empire of Chester."

The Empire is growing. In contrast to my last session, where I didn't seem to make much progress, I did nothing but accomplish things this time around. It began with a slight rewind. After I reloaded from my fatal (for him) encounter with the Shifoxti rogue ship, I was back at starbase. I returned to Delta Gorno, but by way of the Melnorme ship at Alpha Centauri, where I sold a heap of biological data and now had enough credits to actually start buying things.
       
No rainbow worlds yet, though.
           
When dealing with the Melnorme, you can buy a piece of technology, information on current events, information on alien races, or historical information. You only get to choose the category; they choose the next item to give to you. I altered among the categories and ended up obtaining/discovering the following:
            
  • A schematic for blaster weapons twice as powerful as my current ion-bolt guns
  • A schematic for faster lander speed
  • In addition to the Shofixti warrior I'd already met, there's another solo warrior out there plus several females in the menagerie of the Vux admiral Zex. If I can bring the females to the two males and things work out, there will be millions of new Shofixti within a few human generations. The Melnorme recommended that we adopt an approach of insulting the Shofixti and then fleeing if attacked.
  • The Ur-Quan are presently at war with a race called the Kohr-Ah, which are not the alien probes, so I was wrong there. The major fighting is in the middle of the galaxy. The Kohr-Ah seem to be winning. Their war has caught the Zoq-Fot-Pik in the crossfire (something I'd already heard from that race).
  • The Ur-Quan are part of an ancient alliance of races called the "sentient milieu."
  • The blobbish Umgah, one of the races in the Ur-Quan hierarchy, renowned for their sense of humor, has begun screwing with the Ilwrath (the spider-like creatures) by using a device called a HyperWave Caster to impersonate the Ilwrath gods, Dogar and Kazon. When the Ilwrath priest caste decried this fakery, the rest of the Ilwrath population slaughtered the priests. If we could get our hands on this Caster, we could effectively neutralize the Ilwrath.
         
I ran out of credits at this point, but I'd added a few new items to my "to do" list. On we went back to Delta Gorno, where I ran into Tanaka the Shofixti again and this time insulted him. When he attacked, I fled. I re-engaged him almost immediately and noted that I had different insults among the dialogue options, so I figured I must be getting somewhere. He attacked again; I fled again. I think on the third attempt, he realized that the Ur-Quan had never insulted him before, and thus slowed down enough to figure out that we were his allies. Although glad to hear of a new alliance against the Ur-Quan, he declined to join us, preferring to stay and guard his old system. I assume I need him there for when I bring back the Shofixti females.
             
I'm going to try to get you some company.
          
Back I went to my quest list. Let's divert for a moment to note that this is one of the few games of the entire 1975-1992 period in which you have anything like a "quest list." It's extremely common now, of course. Fire up any modern RPG, and you've got a dozen items on your "to do" list (which the game now helpfully keeps for you) before you've left the first town. There are multiple approaches to deciding what item to pursue next, and I'll explore the consequences in a future special topic entry. Briefly, some of them are:
        
  • Gingerly: Do the easiest item (or what sounds like the easiest item) next
  • Chronologically: Do the oldest item next.
  • Geographically by Proximity: Do the closest item next.
  • Geographic by System: Explore the game using a systematic geographic approach (e.g., west to east), solving quests along the way
  • Consequentially: Do the most important item next.
  • Comprehensively: Do all the side quests before the next step in the main quest; the side quests are probably prioritized using another approach here
  • Organically: Do the item next that you'd really do next if you were the character, which probably juggles a lot of these options.
  • Mercenarily: Do the item that sounds like it will give you the greatest reward next.
  • Randomly: Count the number of items on the list and roll a die.
  • Anarchically: Explore the game completely at whim without regard to quests, solving them if you happen to stumble on them.
            
(Let me know if you think I've missed any.)

I find that altering your approach to quests makes a lot of modern games extremely replayable. I tend to play the first time using a "consequential/geographic proximity" combination, meaning I prioritize by importance but pick up side quests as they exist along the route. This ensures that I actually finish the main quest. I don't want to be one of those people that says things like, "I have 1,200 hours into Fallout 4 and I still haven't won the game." I go for the win the first time. The second time, if I'm motivated to play again, I might try a chronological approach to ensure that I explore more of the side quests. Lately, though, I've been prioritizing a random approach, such that Irene is sick of hearing me say, "Hey, Siri, give me a random number between one and twenty-five" before heading off to bag a Legendary Elk.

With Star Control II, I've been using the random approach, mostly because none of the quests seemed obviously more important than the others. But by the end of this session, I had decided to revise my system and use a geographic proximity approach instead, mostly because I nearly ran out of fuel twice while in the fringes of space.

Still using the random roll, I next chased rumors of an unknown ancient race who used to make their home in the Vulpeculae constellation, in the middle of Androsynth space. I didn't expect much from the expedition. Indeed, I figured I'd be attacked by Androsynth and that would be the end of it. Sure enough, I arrived to a swarm of ships who immediately started approaching my own.
             
Well, this doesn't bode well.
            
They weren't Androsynth, though. They were bright yellow things, looking like a combination between a fish and a flower. When they made contact, my translation program warned that it was having trouble with their speech, and it put asterisks around words they weren't sure about, so in an early speech, we got:
         
Hello extremely! I hope you like to *play*. Some *campers* are not so good for *games*. . . Who are you? You are not Orz! We are Orz! Orz are happy *people energy* from the outside. Inside is good. So much good that the Orz will always *germinate.* Can you come together with Orz for *parties*?
            
At first I thought something ribald was going on here, like "parties" meant "orgies" or something. But things didn't develop explicitly along those lines. The best I could work out from their many lines of only partly comprehensible dialogue is that the Orz come from another dimension, that the individual Orz we perceive are all just "fingers" of a single being (like a happy version of the Uhl from Starflight), and that they destroyed the Androsynth for some unknown reason. (They got mad when I even asked about it.) They also don't seem to like the Ariloualeelay, whom they suggest are from their dimension, but from "above" while the Orz are from "below."
         
Let's just make sure we agree on a safe word.
        
Anyway, they seemed to join the Alliance. They let me land on their planets, and they gave me specifications for an "Orz Nemesis" ship that I later had built. Good to know that the Androsynth aren't a threat anymore.

On one of the planets--the second around Eta Vulpeculae--my scanners picked up energy signatures for the first time since (I think) Pluto. There were a lot of them--destroyed Androsynth cities, it turned out.

As my lander explored these cities, the game again invented names and personalities for some of my interchangeable crewmember-hit points. Their reports together created a kind of mini horror story. It began with "xeno-historian Kilgore" reporting that some kind of land war destroyed the cities but left no corpses. Later, "science officer Bukowski" reported that the Androsynth had been researching "Dimensional Fatigue Phenomena," based on their discovery of some Precursor artifacts. They were generating waves that allowed them to see into other dimensions. They ended up making contact with some life form on the "other side," after which their research degraded into rantings about ghosts and poltergeists before abruptly coming to an end.
           
Multiple lander reports deliver a growing horror story.
          
In continued reports from the lander, "Ensign Hawthorne" radioed that Bukowski had continued his inquiry into the Androsynth research project and had himself gone insane, ranting that "they" could now see him and that he had to stop "them" before "they" could see everyone else. Stigmata started appearing on his body, as if he was being cut by an invisible source. The crewmembers on the lander begged to be brought home, and running them into other cities didn't seem to generate any new reports, so I complied. Lots of mysteries here. Are "they" the Orz? The Ariloualeelay? Some other beings from another dimension? Just who have I allied with here?
            
That sounds ominous.
           
On another old ancient ruin, my crew found an "unusual glowing rock-thing" that seemed to make some people sick with headaches and "mental disarray." It was said to be Taalo in origin, this name appearing for the first time. I assume it's the name of the ancient race that lived in Precursor times.

Back at starbase, Commander Hayes praised the design of the Orz Nemesis. Later, he reported that the Taalo rock seemed to have something to do with blocking psychic attacks. Those that had become ill were those with some psychic ability. (He referred to them as "espers," either a reference to 1988's Star Command, or just a term that's more common than I thought for someone with E.S.P.)
             
Adding the Nemesis to my fleet. Now I have four ships that I can't pilot effectively!
           
For my last expedition, my random roll gave me the Zoq-Fot-Pik homeworld, which is in the middle of the map but the farthest I've traveled so far. I stopped at a few systems on the way to search for minerals and whatever else. I'm finding that I hate planets with a "weather" score higher than 2. I can usually avoid earthquakes, and thus deal with a high tectonics score, but lightning bolts often seem to target my lander specifically, and none of my dodging and weaving helps. 

One of the worlds I stopped at randomly was Betelgeuse. There, I was surprised to find a red force field covering a planet and a starbase in orbit. It turned out to be Gaia, the new homeworld of the Syreen, their old one having been destroyed before the events of the first game. When the Alliance surrendered, the Syreen--like Earth--chose to live under a dome rather than serve as battle thralls.
           
This seems familiar.
          
In a long conversation with the Syreen Commander Talana--in which the game seemed to delight in giving me boorish, inappropriate dialogue options--I learned quite a bit about the race. They used to live on Syra--which we call Beta Copernicus--before an asteroid impact caused such volcanic upheaval that the planet had to be abandoned. Now, the entire system seems to have been taken over by the Mycon.
           
The game gives me one professional option and three takes on sexual harassment.
            
When the Syreen surrendered to the Ur-Quan, they chose the shield but noted that they had no actual planet. The Ur-Quan asked them about their requirements. The Syreen talked about Syra ("about the color of its sky, about the abundant, varied lifeforms, about the fertility of the soil and seas"). The Ur-Quan took an hour, then communicated back with the coordinates of Gaia, which the Syreen found to be absolutely perfect. "We'd been searching for a home planet for seventy-five years," Talana said, "and in the end, it was our enemies who gave one to us." Naturally, they were now uninterested in violating their treaty and upsetting the status-quo unless I could give them a good reason, and I had nothing. But I put their old planet on my "to do" list for investigation.

On to the Zoq-Fot-Pik system (ZFP from here on). When I arrived, I found it swarming with Ur-Quan, and before I could escape, one of the Ur-Quan dreadnoughts approached. Our dialogue just consisted of the Ur-Quan captain making threats. In the ensuing combat, I couldn't do anything. I tried about five times. The dreadnought fires huge metal swastikas or something--I think they're actually supposed to be autonomous ships--that fly around until they hit something. They have as many hit points as my own flagship. None of my smaller ships lasted more than a few hits and even with my flagship, it became clear that if I won, it would be with about 10 crewmembers left over. I really hope it's possible to win this game without being good at the space combat.
            
I missed the shot of the enemy's projectile. It's just crashed into my cruiser.
             
So I ultimately sighed and escaped combat, which leaves your ship immobile for about 10 seconds as it jumps to hyperspace, which is enough time for the enemy to destroy a couple dozen crewmembers. I dodged the rest of the Ur-Quan ships and made my way to the ZFP homeworld, where the faintly ridiculous species agreed to join my alliance.
          
The Pik is the emotional one.
         
I leave you on my way back to starbase. The trip to the ZFP system took so much fuel that I have to keep my eye on the gauge as I explore for elements. But I do have to explore because if I don't, I won't have any money to buy new fuel when I get back. 

Lots of fun and progress this trip, though I'm not sure what it's amounting to just yet.

Time so far: 15 hours

65 comments:

  1. So the Orz Nemesis is another one of those ships that defies the typical control scheme and the game doesn't really take the time to explain it. The fire button shoots a decently ranged and damaging shell from the cannon, pretty straightforward, but the 'special' attack is where things get atypical. Holding special and the direction keys will rotate the cannon like on a tank, S.O.P. in most encounters is to spin it to the rear and use the Nemesis' superior speed and agility to play a bit like the Spathi -- let the enemy chase you while shooting them from your rear. However, considering that you are having difficulty with the combat it is probably the secondary attack that would be of more interest, holding the secondary attack and tapping fire launches a little Orz space marine that will relentlessly track down it's foe, invade the ship, and kill as many crew as possible, Hayes refers to these dudes in an adjacent text to your screenshot above. This might be an acceptable way for you to deal with those annoying probes.

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    1. Oh, and that's a Kohr-Ah ship you fought near the ZFP homeworld (you can see their name on the screenshot) the Ur-Quan dreadnoughts are the green ships you faced in the first game that Launched Fighters.

      The 'swastikas' that the Kohr-Ah fire are supposed to be some kind of spinning disc, a fairly dumb idea in a game full of plasma weapons, but their trick is they can be launched and then left as stationary mines for the enemy to later stumble through.

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    2. Use the Orz marines to fight, or, as the Orz suggest, "use *GO! GO!* for the *dancing*". God I love the Orz. They're one of the three species (along with the Arilou and one other I think Chet hasn't discovered yet) that Greg Johnson of Starflight fame wrote (and voiced).

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    3. Yeah, as the combat screen tells you, those black ships are the Kohr-Ah finally making an appearance. Not sure how you missed that part, as they even announce on their very first dialog line who and what they are.

      Anyway, the Kohr-Ah Marauder has relatively few weaknesses, but its poor mobility makes it vulnerable to long-range weapons, especially homing weapons. The Spathi Eluder is very effective against them, though it does take some skill and practice. Keep them at medium range, and turn often so you don't get neither too far nor close, since your ship is much faster. The basic idea here is that since the computer has mostly perfect predictive aiming, you should use the sound of the enemy projectiles launching as a cue to turn your ship, which should cause most of them to miss. Then it's just a matter of time wearing them down with your homing missiles.

      I'd upload a video to Youtube to show how it's done, but YT will immediately spoil the final parts of the game in its video recommendations, so I'll pass.

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    4. That's funny. When I was playing, I actually wrote down that I faced off the Kohr-Ah. I had been paying attention to the text. Then, when I went to write the entry, I looked at the images and thought, "No, that's clearly an Ur-Quan. He's even got the talking pet," completely missing the text in the same window. The "revelation" that the Kor-Ah and the Ur-Quan are the same species didn't hit me until the next session, when I had to respond to an emergency at the ZFP homeworld.

      Sometimes I'm just dumb like that.

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    5. Those of us who owned SC 1 would have had 10+ hours of this kind of Space War combat under our belts, and specific experience with the Earth and Spathi ships (although unless you go out of your way/use foreknowledge, your third ship is going to be new to this game). I'll wait quite a while to deeply analyze how the game design uses combat to carefully nudge players in the same way that FRPGs use monsters like dragons; as should be clear, fighting Kohr-Ah or their green cousins is highly undesirable.

      The Spathi ship can indeed get you most of the likely early game fights, but as you'll have noticed, you have only one Fwiffo, so you're left with little margin for error and he's best used for combats with one or few enemy ships. In theory, the small/cheap ships are faster and can dodge attacks better, but in practice they're high risk and only worth using in Rock-Paper-Scissors match-ups. Unlike SC 1, you can predict what enemy ships you will encounter in different areas of space and plan accordingly. (Earthling Cruisers are most useful against Spathi, BTW, not that you want to rely on them in combat at all.)

      The Orz can be a reliable workhorse but the ship is sometimes difficult to maneuver and the crew small enough that you have little margin for error. As others have suggested, the flagship can fight anything, but that relies on it being properly kitted out.

      And there's where the trade-offs appear. You can focus on the tech upgrades to improve your Flagship and get other good stuff, at the risk of lagging behind on knowledge/questlines that a more combat-oriented player might get sooner. And you can tool up for fights with more crew pods and power generation, at the cost of lowering your cargo capacity.

      You're still better off skirting around "dragon" territory and running away if they threaten you.

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  2. I avoided Androsynth territory until late with the same reasoning as you, so when I finally checked it out the Orz were a pleasant(?) surprise.

    ESPer seems to be a pretty well-used term in speculative fiction, I've seen it in a lot of different series.

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  3. Just a minor suggestion: proficiency in space combat *is* going to be necessary at a few key points down the line, but there's a way you can practice without worrying about the cost - Super Melee. It's essentially a combat simulator, you can even use enemy ships just to see their capabilities. Avoiding spoilers is as simple as only testing out ships you already have in your fleet or have encountered in a fight. Go enough rounds there, and you'll at least be able to hold your own rather than be forced to quit when you get into a fight you have to win.

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    1. I've been using that and getting better. After the next entry, I'll have an entire one devoted to combat.

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    2. Be careful when entering star systems from hyperspace with lots of ships tailing you, which can easily happen with a fast ship. That's one way to end up with a lot of combat.

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  4. The only other approach I can think of is prioritizing quests that will be unavailable or inconsequential if you waited to do them later. For instance, a quest reward that is only useful in the early part of the game but becomes obsolete later. Or a quest reward that needs time to accumulate in value, so you need to start early. Or even a quest challenge that would become trivial after you gained a certain amount of power and thus deny you the fun of tackling it.

    You could call it the FOMO approach.

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  5. I thought of an approach of how to decide what to do next: *Foolishly - Ignore all the main quest and side quest options and head straight toward where you think the game will end. You could actually try that in this game, but the odds of surviving I think would be very low. - Jim

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    1. There aren't many games where that would even be an option. Pool of Radiance, maybe.

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    2. If I remember correctly, you kind of used that strategy in Ultima 5, by heading straight to Underworld in the footsteps of LB:s expedition..

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    3. It's not an RPG, but Breath of the Wild has that as an option.

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    4. You can also make a beeline straight for Red Mountain at the beginning of Morrowind (and die horribly without Wraithguard.)

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  6. Chet, please post a screenshot or two of the starmap as the game progresses. I think this is one of the coolest parts of the story that readers may miss if they've never played the game before.

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    1. Seconded. The star map initially starts oppressively huge and barren, but as you explore things become very interesting on that screen.

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  7. No matter how fun the game is, I don't think I'd last very long with the game's "humor." I'm all for a game that has a sense of humor, but made-up sci-fi words and wAcKy PeRsOnAlItY!!!! isn't enough for me. Compare Saint's Row III, a game loaded with humorous situations and outlandish concepts, to the Fallout New Vegas DLC "Old World Blues," which just endlessly drones at you with made-up sci-fi words in silly voices.

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    1. You didn't find the bit with the penis fingers funny? But the giant purple dildo as a weapon game tickled your fancy? I'm not sure that's a super popular opinion round these parts but I guess that's why humors subjective.

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    2. The thing is, in SR3, you actually get to see it and play with it and use it to smack other characters, and you can put it away and never think about it again when the joke no longer tickles your fancy. The part you're referring to in OWB is just a handful of lines in a dialogue tree that (in my recollection) takes *way too long* and hammers in every single joke like it's worried you didn't get it the first several times.

      Maybe a better comparison would be GLADOS in Portal. Same concept, vastly different execution.

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    3. Fair enough. Its been years since I played OWB but that bit had me laughing. It's also onlyba few lines but goes to illustrate how long they've been brains in a jar (and is foreshadowing for his characters past sexual regressions). The thing with OWB is that most of the humor was based on the characters themselves and not just seemly random dialogue, most of the "lol random" bits were really just Wasteland call backs. I for one got pretty tired of the one note humor of the Saints Row games. But again, it's subjecive.

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  9. "Esper" appears for (probably) the first time in a 1942 short story in the Lensman universe.

    It is not a particularly uncommon word in science fantasy works generally.

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    1. I think that's what they were called in the influential novella 'The Demolished Man', and in the TV series Babylon 5.

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    2. Looking into it a bit more, it doesn't seem like the term "ESP" was coined until the mid-1930s, and it didn't get spread around until the debunking movement got started in '36. This reinforces the notion that the 1942 story was the originator - there isn't much room for anything earlier.

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    3. The term esper also appears in JRPGs, especially in the Final Fantasy series. It usually refers to supernatural beings that can be summoned in combat to help out, either to deal massive area damage, or act as temporary party members.

      This is also an English-only term: in the original Japanese, they are called phantom beasts or summoned beasts.

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    4. It's also the verb "to wait" in Spanish. Which is about as relevant as the Final Fantasy usage...

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    5. The infinity for that its "esperar", esper doesnt even mean a thing in spanish.

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  10. I thought there's quite a bit of Starflight's Spemin (1.0) in the Umgah.
    And I thought there's a bit of the Veloxi in the Ilwrath, but when I re-played Starflight that wasn't quite the case.
    Both games use the "old alliance/empire" approach to give some historic depth to their races.

    You probably realized now how Star Control 2 is an RPG in all the "soft" criteria (lore, economy, quests, meaningful decisions) - but in none of the "hard" criteria.

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  11. In open world RPGs, I just go wherever usually. If I discover something that will make things easier, I would prioritize it, but usually it's down to what information seems important, what's closest, and exactly how dangerous things are where I might possibly go.

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  12. I started playing this for the first time when you began posting about it (just won a couple of days ago), and thought I'd share two observations that might be useful (one is slightly spoiler-y so I've ROT13'd it):

    1) I also find the ship combat completely inaccessible -- it's way too fast and chaotic, all the smaller ships have too few hitpoints and are even faster and more chaotic, and the zooming-in/zooming-out thing made me crash into planets way more often than is fun. However, it wasn't too hard to win without getting good, or, with one or two small exceptions, ever using a ship other than the flagship -- just like in a real RPG, it's all about the upgrades. I found there was a very sharp tipping point in the combat -- pretty much every fight other than the probes was unwinnable for me and I'd just run away, until I got sufficient upgrades that most combats became trivial (there is one in particular that is a real game-changer -- you'll know it when you get to it).

    2) I understand why they put the time limit into the game, but I think it's actually a bad piece of design. As far as I can tell, it's either a complete non-factor, or almost guaranteed to end your run, depending on when and whether you happen to pursue one particular thread. This is a very very light spoiler that I wish I'd known before I started, but I'm ROT13ing it just in case: vs lbh'ir urneq n ehzbe nobhg fbzrguvat jrveq unccravat arne gjb flfgrzf arne gur zvqqyr bs gur yrsg-fvqr rqtr bs gur fgne-znc, sbyybj hc ba vg orsber gvzr trgf gbb gvtug.

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  13. The Kohr-Ah marauders are one of the most powerful ships in the setting, so don't feel bad about getting curb stomped by them. As Melnorme said, even the Ur-Quan Hierarchy is losing to them.

    Ohg, vfa'g vg phevbhf gung gurl vagebqhprq gurzfryirf nf "He-Dhna" Xbue-Nu?

    There is another thing you could have done while you were around Vulpeculae... I bet your settled homeworld, Unzervalt (Vela I), is anxious to hear back the news about Earth.

    Because there is a time limit, my approach to Star Control 2 is usually to follow the leads by proximity. If you are near something, do that.

    SC2 is pretty rare in that your ability to do the tasks is limited purely by knowledge, rather than gated by difficulty. So you're free to do things in practically any order you want. Though, of course, some things will be easier if you're better equipped or have more allies (or in few cases have done an optional prerequesite).

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  14. I can confirm that "esper" is an ubiquitous word in written science fiction, while it seems to be somewhat rare in other media. Let me explain why:

    While "Extrasensory Perception" could describe all sorts of skills, in 98 % of science fiction stories it's a synonym for "telepathy". We have the perfectly good words "telepath" and "telepathy", so why would we drag some 1930s pseudo-science into it?

    Because sooner or later our character will use their faculty, and we have to describe it in prose. "He telepathized. She telepathed. They thought-read." All clumsy. "He espered." Much better! The noun "esper" spread because we can derive a verb from it that is heaven-sent in a prose story containing mind readers.

    However, visual media don't have a pressing need here. When Deanna Troi grimaces we don't need a verb for that.

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    1. Oh God I had totally forgotten about Counselor Cleavage. Ugh.

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    2. I have never heard "esper" used as a verb like that, and I've read a lot of SF and a lot of stories with telepathy.

      Usually telepathic actions are described a little less literally. "She plucked the thoughts out of his mind" or some such. I'm thinking of books like Anne McCaffrey's Rowan series here, in which there is plenty of both telepathy and telekinesis, but fortunately no awkward "espered" constructions. Or Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar, which calls it mindspeech (not SF but still plenty of "mind-magic" which acts exactly like telepathy).

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    3. I agree with Reiko, I've read a lot of SF/fantasy books and have never encountered "to esper" as a verb. I recall Isaac Asimov wrote a strongly-worded essay against making up new words like that...

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    5. Harland - in a talk that Marina Sirtis gave at a convention years ago, she said that the role of Troi was initially pitched to her at the new science officer: "You'll be the Spock of this series." When they showed her the costume, she knew that she'd been lied to.

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    6. And yet she did it anyway. For six years.

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  15. "I really hope it's possible to win this game without being good at the space combat."

    One thing that probably helps advance the notion that this game is an RPG is that you can do a lot of grinding for minerals and biological data to upgrade your main ship into an unstoppable killing machine, making most mandatory combats fairly easy. In my recent playthrough I basically didn't use the support ships at all, just the main ship.

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    1. Yes, just think of the main ship as your character, mined resources as experience, and Melnorme technology as skills/spells. The more experience and skills/spells you get, the easier combat becomes. Even if one is not very good/talented at the action portion of the game, the skills/spells make many encounters easy enough, so if you're having too much trouble in any one combat, you can theoretically grind more XP for skills/spells. However, the game is so big and open that you usually can just pursue a different quest instead of "grinding" and in the process get enough XP to make the first encounter easy.

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    2. So we're just going to tell him what to do and spoil the whole game, is that it? Hey, don't bother finding things out for yourself!

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    3. What exactly did I spoil? That he can upgrade his ship? That he can grind? Key plot points there...

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    4. Harland, let it go, man. I'll get mad at people about spoilers if they spoil anything. In the meantime, I'm playing about 5-7 hours ahead of the blog entries, so there isn't much danger.

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  16. Last screenshoot => Are you quite sure the emotional one is the Pik. This seems like an highly contentious issue !

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    1. I just assumed they went in order from left to right. I don't know why.

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    2. There's a dialog option "Which one of you creatures is the Fot?" at, I think, their homeworld.

      Gurl qba'g xabj rvgure.

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    3. I think that's just what is natural for us Western people, the left-to-right order. I wonder what people using right-to-left writing would think?

      At any rate, a lot of lore isn't spelled out for us. I guess you're just supposed to let your imagination fill in the blanks.

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    4. I vaguely remember reading that the 3DO source code designates them Zok-Fot-Pik left to right. Juvpu whfg znxrf vg shaavre gung gur npghny Sbg qbrfa'g unir n fnl va gur nethzrag!

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  17. You want to bag WHAT?! �� ��

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  18. "Esper" was popularised by Alfred Bester's 1953 novel "The Demolished Man". I'm not sure if there are uses that predate that, but it's a fairly seminal work so it's certainly used widely thereafter.

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  19. For a long time, the Orz ship was my favorite. It's agile and powerful, and its biggest flaws are that it's expensive and suffers from the clunky controls more than most. Eventually though I found that agility beats power, so the (rot 13) Guenqqnfu Gbepu became my new first choice.

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  20. ROT13 *Spoilers* Lbh nfxrq jub "Gurl" ner; juvyr abg qrfpevorq va gur tnzr, gur perngbef oevrsyl rkcynvarq guvf. "Gurz" vf n cbjreshy ragvgl sebz nabgure ernyz bs fcnpr, naq gur Naqebflagu'f VQS rkcrevzragf qerj vg gb GehrFcnpr. Vg fhpxrq va gur Naqebflagu naq ercynprq gurz jvgu vgf "svatref"; gur Bem. Abg hayvxr ZGT'f Ryqenmv.

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  21. I'm looking forward to the playstyle post, your posts discussing general game concepts are my favorites. However, I can't think of a style that's unrepresented on your list. Maybe 'subversive,' where you try to break the world by deliberately breaking quests, or subverting their intent, doing things the game allows but with an eye to watching the world burn. Killing Lord British, casting Armageddon, killing major NPCs? I'm not sure this qualifies, as it is usually followed by a reload. Maybe 'Ethical' fits better- doing only the quests that suit a certain ethical stance. Save the puppy, don't help Molag Bal. Or the reverse. Eat the puppy in the name of Molag Bal. Play through the whole game with a certain ethical stance. (This is probably just a subset of Organically though. Playing consistently as a persona, rather than as yourself)

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    1. When I played Pool of Radiance, some commenter recalled playing with a friend in the 1980s, and that his friend delighted in attacking Phlan guards, looting their swords and armor, and selling them for gold. This second-hand account of a 30-year-old sociopath still keeps me up some nights.

      Nonetheless, I'm not sure it's the same thing I'm talking about, which is simply how one decides what quest to do next. That person is beyond thinking about quests at all.

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  22. Chet, are you familiar with Bartle's taxonomy of player types?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartle_taxonomy_of_player_types

    It seems like the kind of thing that would interest you and while it's primarily a way of classifying players in a multi-player environment, it still holds decent relevance to single player games. I bring this up because, as someone who falls squarely into the 'achiever' camp, my particular brain disease 100% informs what should be next on the to-do list by way of achievements/triumphs/trophies/whatever. Usually it's whatever looks easiest on the list, but if two or more can be worked on simultaneously then that gets priority, e.g. if there's an achievement for killing 100 goblins with bows then there's no point in specifically grinding that if there's another achievement that happens to take you through goblin country, just be sure to pack some arrows. Path of least resistance is another factor, in Skyrim there's an achievement for building everything possible in a house, and another for building all five houses, so while the first house gets decked to the nines, the other four only ever have their foundations laid and then never visited again. I know this sound ridiculous, because it is, but that's just how Bartle's 'achievers' tick.

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    1. I am thoroughly an "explorer" myself. Even back in the day when I played WoW I was most proud of getting the title "the Explorer" for having mapped every area in every region.

      I want to look in every nook and cranny, discover every secret. I'd be a hundred percenter even if it didn't confer a shiny badge for it, simply because I want to see it all, find it all. (And contrariwise if the game's 100% requires getting achievements like "kill 1000 goblins" then I'm less interested in obtaining that.)

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    2. No! I'd never heard of this. But I'm not surprised that someone else has tried to categorize this phenomenon before. It's not quite the same thing that I'm talking about, but there's enough overlap that when I write about it in more detail, I'll have to reference Bartle's work.

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