Saturday, July 28, 2012

Origins Part 2: "Full Power To Shields!"

Another fun thing I did at Origins was play a couple spaceship themed games. One of the games was called "Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator", a computer game where up to 6 players play crew members on a starship similar to those in Star Trek. There is a separate computer for each station, and a big screen up front that shows a visual display. Stations include comms (who can communicate with space stations to get upgrades and missions, and taunt opponents and demand their surrender), science (who can scan enemies to determine their capabilities and shield frequency), engineering (who is in charge of re-routing power to different systems, controlling the coolant, and using damage control teams to repair damage), helm (who is in charge of controlling the ship's heading and thrusters), weapons (who can fire beams and torpedoes), and there can also be a captain (who does not have a station, but can walk around and give orders to the rest of the crew). The goal of the game is to defend several space stations from enemy ships that are trying to invade. In addition to your primary beam, there are several other weapons including homing missiles, mines, nukes (which have a large blast radius and can take out a whole formation of enemies), and ECM missiles (which can destroy enemy shields). The most successful teams I saw rarely used beams, preferring to stand back and destroy enemy formations by launching an ECM followed by a nuke, and then using homing missiles to mop up any stragglers. (Space stations can build extra nukes and ECMs, and you can convert energy into homing missiles and refill your energy easily, so if you are careful you will not run out of missiles) In the game I played in, I was the helm officer, and we played at a lower difficulty level (3, on a scale of 1 to 11). Our captain, Andrew, came up with a technique he called the "Crazy Andrew": fly at warp speed through an enemy formation, dropping a mine right when you reach the center, then in the couple seconds it takes the mine to blow up you will have moved out of the blast radius. (When you drop a mine, the mine is not moving relative to the game's coordinate system, regardless of how fast the ship is moving when you drop the mine. This game is based on Star Trek physics, not real physics.)

There was another group I watched that was planning a bigger challenge - difficulty level 7 (where 10
is "theoretically impossible", and 11 is "double that"). One of the first groups of enemies they fought, they used the same technique of dropping a mine in the middle of them - except they weren't moving when they did so. So the mine blew up their back of the own ship. Fortunately their ship was in good enough shape to get away and go to another group of enemies, which they tried to beat by firing a nuke - at close range, which blew up the front of their ship. With only a narrow portion of their ship in the middle still undamaged, the enemies easily finished them off. Since the game ended so quickly they tried again. They did a much better job this time, carefully controlling range, using skillful maneuvering to lure enemies into pre-existing minefields, and darting from enemy group to enemy group. But at one point, a mysterious object appeared on radar, heading right toward them! The science station's scanners revealed nothing, and the object kept going toward them no matter where they went. Not knowing whether the object was dangerous, they decided to play it safe and stay away. In an attempt to shake off the pursuer, they maneuvered to put a black hole between themselves and the object, hoping to lure the object into the black hole. The object did go into the black hole, but its path wasn't even affected! The ship continued trying to warp speed away, but they weren't looking closely where they were going, so they eventually ran at warp speed right into their own mine from before! So that quest was over, and the person who had programmed the game, who was watching the whole thing, made a note to fix a bug in the program.


Another spaceship themed game I played was "Battlestations", a board game (not a computer game this time) where players are crew on a ship. This game has role-playing game elements, such as skill points and upgradeable equipment, and each time you play it is one mission. Then your character gets experience points and stuff, so you can upgrade it for the next mission. In the game we played, our goal was to warp into a sector of space and investigate a mysterious ship in the middle of an asteroid field. I was a science officer, with the ability to use a science bay to scan the area (asking yes or no questions) and use a med-kit to heal crew members. When we warped in, we first tried to go toward the ship. Normally accelerating too fast makes the ship go "out of control" and gives penalties to your skill rolls, but we were able to mitigate that problem the first round using our "stabilizing fin". (This game isn't based on Star Trek physics: the physics in this game aren't even close to that good.) I used the science bay to ask if there was anything unusual about the asteroids, thinking that they might be hidden mines or something. There wasn't anything unusual about the asteroids, but there was something unusual about the ship. It fired a blue beam at us, which created clones of every one of us, except they were hostile! One thing we noticed was that we weren't able to affect our own clone, so we had to shoot at each other's clones. The clones caused as much havoc as possible, trying to turn our ship off course, shoot at us, and the engineers' clones went through the ship and sabotage our systems. By the end of the first "round" (a round is 6 phases, and a phase is basically a turn), they had managed to sabotage all four of our life support modules. Fortunately we were able to get a couple of them back online before the lack of life support did too much damage.

At the end of the first round, the clones winked out of existence. But this was only a brief respite because they fired the blue beam again, creating more clones! Just before the beam hit, two of our crew launched themselves in a boarding missile to try to board the enemy ship and prevent the beam from cloning them, while everyone else stayed to fend off the clones and heal damaged allies. Near the end of the second round, two of the engineers launched themselves in a boarding missile just before the next beam hit, avoiding being clones but also putting themselves in a position to circle around, come back to the ship, and start repairing systems. By the end of the third round, however, the two boarders (who didn't even have "combat" as their primary skill) reported that they had shut down the beam and taken control of the enemy ship, ending the mission in success. You see, the enemy ship had a very powerful beam weapon, but it didn't really have any defense.

1 comment:

Dan Mont said...

Don't really have any comments, other than to say this sounds mostly fun -- though maybe at times a little frustrating? Especially if there are bugs in the system