Sunday, February 2, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 19

     Even limping on one engine, the Hermus set herself down almost gracefully onto the planetoid.  As she made contact with the ground, she shook to a halt.  Three crewmen in exosuits walked out onto the surface, carrying heavy drilling equipment.  It took three hours for the crewmen to return with a load of refined Litanium, the alloy was to toxic to refine onboard the ship.  Prallan knew it would take two days to manufacture the components and install them.  The only upside was that only a handful of engineering crewmen were needed for the process, and maintenance was minimized with the ship sitting on the planetoid.   It meant Lily was no longer pulling double or triple shifts, and he might actually see his wife occasionally over the next few days.

     Prallan quietly opened the door to his quarters.  Lily was not there, but her shift was not over for a couple hours.  He was exhausted, but the crisis had meant many hours of reports not being filed, and other piles of paperwork to sort through.  Somewhere between a supply inventory report and an injury list from the engine failure, Prallan felt that something wasn't right.  Digging through the reports, he found the one that bothered him.  It was Chief Wurstol's scans of the prototype engine.  Not being an engineer, it took him some time to make sense of it, and find what bothered him about the scans.  He pulled up an inventory of the components present when the engine was dismantled.

    Lily opened the door and smiled upon seeing him awake.  "I'm glad to see you waited up for me," she said, tossing her work satchel onto the other desk.  "No engineering equipment in bed, right?"

    "Do you trust the Chief?"

    Her smile faded.  "You want to talk about work after we haven't really been around each other in days?"

    "Not particularly, but  can't get these reports out of my head.  The component the Chief is building....the inducer coil....there doesn't seem to have been one on Engine One.  There definitely isn't one listed in the scrap."  Lily bit her lip.  "You know something about this, don't you?"

     "Do you know who my father is?"  She asked him, sitting on the edge of the bed.

     "No." He admitted.  "We haven't really had time to meet the family."  His own father was an instructor at the Academy, and his mother had died a number of years ago in a shuttle crash.

     "My father is Erdnal Brishan."

     "The famous particle theorist?  The guy whose papers make everyone else in the field look like children?"

     "Yes, that's my dad.  The point being that inducer coil is something he theorized to improve propulsion on photon-based engines.  He has written four different papers on it."

     "The point being?"

     "The inducer coils being built are prototypes.  Five of us came up with the design, based on those papers.  Simulations and initial testing indicated that there was a good chance it would work."

     "If it doesn't, then we are stranded on a planetoid on the edge of Imperial space.  At least before we could have jumped back for repairs."

    "Engine two isn't powerful enough to get us through the jump by itself.  If it was the engine we are supposed to have, then it could, but not the one we have.  The inducer should fix all of that."

    "You should have told me about this idea before we set down on the planet."  He stood from the desk, and walked over to her.  "I could have presented it to the Captain, and he could have decided what to do.  Instead, you and the others have intentionally lied to superior officers and put this ship further in danger."

     "Rickler would never have approved this, and you know that.  He would have tried the jump, the engine would have failed under the strain, and we would have all died."   She was crying now, and Prallan realized he had been yelling.

     "As Captain, that is his right.  He could order us to run into an asteroid, and he would within his rights."

     "Stop yelling at me, I am your wife."  She said, crying openly.  "We did what was best for the ship."

     "In this, you are a crewman and I am the first officer of this ship."  He headed for the door.  "You are confined to quarters until further notice.  I need to speak to your department head, and see who else I need to discipline."


     The walk to engineering felt much longer than usual.  He had just dressed down his wife and confined her to quarters.  This was precisely what he had worried about.  He stepped through the doors to Engineering, and saw Chief Wurstol and several other engineers milling about the engine they were building.  "Chief, can I have a word?"

    "Of course, sir."  She handed the tool in her hand to one of the other engineers, and walked over.  "This engine should be finished in about ten hours, and inducers installed on both engines about twenty after that.  Then a few hours of testing and tuning and we will be on our way."

     Making sure they were out of earshot, Prallan said in a low voice.  "Assuming the unproven prototype your team invented actually works."

    The Chief's face went white.  "Sir, its the only way we can...."

     "We are stuck on a planetoid unless it works, so it had better.  I have not yet made up my mind as to when I will bring this to the Captain's attention, but it will be brought to his attention."

     "So, you are going to let us continue?"

     "I don't have a choice.  I've read your reports, these engines need the theoretical boost of the inducer to get us safely off this planetoid and through a jump point.  If you succeed, then you have field tested a theoretical component successfully and validated years of theory and research.  If it fails, we are no worse off than we are now."

     "Thank you, sir, I...."

     "Crewman Tigrole has been confined to quarters for the time being.  Don't make my wife lie to me in the future."  Prallan turned and left engineering, dreading with every step the conversation he would have when he reached his quarters.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

WoW's success might also be its downfall

I was playing a free pandaria trial of World of Warcraft this week.  In about three days I got my 85 death knight to 90, and tinkered around with a few of the other aspects of the game.  While some of the improvements are very solid (multi-loot, for example), I can't help but feel two things: 1. The server population is much lower than I remember and 2. The same missions and mission types are being used over and over again.

It seems to me that everyone is "done" with pandaria.  Serious players maxed out end-game reputations already, and have beaten the major raids.  With Warlords comings sometime this year, it makes zero sense to gear up when item levels will just receive a major boost again at the next expansion.  As a comparison, I user my Gurthalak, Voice of the Deeps, until level 86, and it only lasted that long because I didn't want to death gate out and put a new rune on the axe I got as a quest reward.  Now, it was just the LFR version of the sword (item level 390), but even the heroic one would have only lasted until 88, when I got several item level 414+ weapons (from quests accessible much earlier than 88).  In all honesty, it took about 4 or 5 LFR runs to get that sword, but when I think about all the other purple gear I had, and all the time and effort put into those (all gone by the time I hit 87), it makes me not want to do it again, ahead of the next expansion.  WoW PVP has not interested me since the original twink era, and with all the redone classes it turns into an even bigger gear game.

This is such a sharp contrast to the vanilla WoW I remember.  There, everyone was doing whatever they could to gear up for raids, and get as much gear as they could.  Blizzard was releasing new content almost as fast as people could conquer it.  Not to mention that getting to 60 was so much of a longer journey.  Raiding actually required farming materials, using professions, getting geared before stepping foot into a raid.  Reputation factions were a major grind, where there weren't as many dailies (if any at all) to ease your way.  The three PVP factions were actually good sources of gear in general, for PVP or PVE.  Above all the game was fun, even for all the challenges.

The quest type problems are a consistent theme in WoW.  I think that the "quest node" idea has been taken a little too far with MoP.  Every zone has about eight to ten areas where quests are given out.  You usually have three to four "rounds" of quests for these areas, culminating in a harder quest (longer or more difficult) and that one usually rewards a piece of blue gear.  Rinse and repeat about fifty times.  Most of these are kill x creatures, kill boss creature, gather x drops, or gather x items from clickables.  There are some rare exceptions, but I don't recall any of these being fun.  They were a chore list.  It is not helped at all by the fact that you cannot fly in pandaria until 90.  This, to me, makes zero sense.  It resulted in me racing to 90, and getting flying, only to look around the area and discover all the areas that were previously inaccessible held lvl 90 mobs and were typically sites for dailies.  So, they basically repeated what they did in TBC with that.

The net result is that the game is no fun.  The lore is still interesting, but I can read wowpedia for that.  There is nothing in this game for me anymore.  Warlords might change that with Garrisons, but I feel like I am just going to be disappointed with the way Blizzard will do those.  I will be even more disappointed when they announce another new expansion shortly after Warlords goes live.

WoW was released in November, 2004.  TBC was released January, 2007 (26 months later).  WotLK was released  November, 2008 (22 months later).  Cataclysm was released December, 2010 (25 months later).  Pandaria was released September 2012 (22 months later).  Warlords will be released sometime this year, if we assume December that is 27 months (though 25 months seems more likely, which would be October, meaning beta should be April).  This 2ish year release cycle makes the game predictable.  6 months of solid playtime, levelling characters, completing original raids, doing server events.  Then 6 more months of raiding the newer content that is patched in or gates are lifted to make it available.  Finally, the next expansion is released, and there is 6-10 months of languish while everyone leaves to do more fun things.  Then the beta hits, people get interested, and start setting up their accounts and characters to be ready for it.  Then the cycle repeats.

I will certainly try to be a beta tester for Warlords, and I will be watching, but something needs to change about WoW, or it will stop making enough money for Blizzard to keep developing it.  The cosmetic upgrades will certainly help, but it will be too little too late if they don't change the game's structure.