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Your Klingon warship has earned many glories in battle.  The Ship’s Manifest lists victories that any Captain would be proud of.  The time comes when the crew needs to be rewarded, since living on the razor’s edge could wear down the best of officers and troops.  Command has granted you time for shore leave and Boreth was recommended.  Officers who spend time on Boreth are often on the fast track for advancement and greater honors.  Those that are lucky may even be granted an audience with the Emperor Kahless himself.  Report to Boreth, in the B’Moth Sector of the Omega Leonis Sector Block, and uncover your destiny…

This a Klingon only mission.


MajQa’, this is my first published mission using the Foundry.  It has had a rocky start, but I believe that I have removed the bugs, and the mission can be completed successfully.  I ran it through last night after publishing it for the fourth time; all previous versions were unpublished first.  This episode is a few engagements shorter in the first scene, and the map transfer actually works now.  The rest of the mission moves along as it should.  Klingon missions cannot truly be released; they escape with bat’leth in hand slashing their way through all enemies and obstructions…

I had one written poor review, and a total of five scores of 1.  I do take this seriously, and I have made changes to improve the playability and the fun-factor, so I hope everyone will give it a chance.  Please produce more constructive criticism, as I endeavor to learn from this.  I love storytelling, but my challenge is the mechanics of the Foundry.  I believe I have a fun, playable mission, and I hope everyone will enjoy it.

QAPLA!

It’s official.

Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy.  Last week we discussed integrating technobabble in short dialog boxes and writing responses the player might say and designing mission objectives around the technobabble mentioned in an ongoing effort to make your player character Captains to feel more like they are the Captain of a starship and not just clicking a NEXT button.  This means that even if dialog is very simple in the Foundry (at launch) you can still write compelling missions that take the audience on a mission seemingly pulled from their favorite TV show.  This week, since half of my columns name is “Speaking”, I would like to take a break from listing off technobabble that I like and instead wrap up a lot of loose ends about how to write believable technobabble.

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Short skirts, go-go boots, and Vulcans in heat… Star Trek has incorporated sex appeal and downright “T and A” into every series.  It’s probably one of the most consistent aspects of Star Trek canon.  Canon is sexy. 

Sure, it was pretty toned down for TNG, as the series became more politically correct and almost unisex.  Nevertheless, with DS9 and especially VOY and ENT, Star Trek returned to its roots, giving us voluptuous women in catsuits and shirtless male bravado.  ENT, in particular, pushed the envelope, especially with decon rubdowns and crewmembers running around the corridors of the ship in their skimpies.  ENT even brought us back full circle to the alluring women of TOS:

No doubt, some of the “sexy” in canon has become out-dated and sexist by today’s standards.  It’s difficult not to cringe when watching Kirk seduce scantily-clad android hotties.  It’s also tough to imagine Capt. Picard having his way with an indentured love slave, as Kirk did in “Bread and Circuses.”  Most likely, audiences in 2040 will cringe when watching episodes of Enterprise. 

It also seems likely that the sexiness of canon will find its way into community-authored missions.  We know it’s coming, right?  We’ll see seductive Orions, Vulcan love slaves, and “interesting” missions on Risa.  What should be seen as offensive?  What should we report?

Players will have different reactions to different missions.  Indeed, one player at the STO forums was even offended by Cryptic’s latest featured episode that took place in the TOS era.  So, no one is safe from the report button, if the mission resembles what we’ve seen on TV.  This could prove unfair, since a mission that gets reported will likely not make it to the “main game.”

Certainly, there is a both a subtle and a tasteless way to incorporate “T and A,” as done by the series over the years.  Smart and witty dialogue, like Quark’s dirty bar jokes or Jadzia Dax’s insinuating comments, probably stand a better chance of not being reported.  Most likely, there will be some players who even object to those moments.

Where do we draw the line?  When has the line been crossed?  When has a UGC author gone too far?

How do you, as a Foundry author, achieve a balance?  Or, do you plan on avoiding the “sexy” altogether?  What should Cryptic’s policy be?

Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy.  Last week we got up to speed on our Chief of Medicines’ commonly used phrases, medical conditions, medicine and technology.  This week I have a very amibitious goal, to show you how to make your technobabble a solid part of the mission and not just an afterthought.  Technobabble must be carefully used, you don’t want to confuse or frustrate your player character Captain, but at the same time technobabble provides a wonderful way to tie your mission to the episodes of Star Trek and provide mystery, intrigue and wonder that captured our hearts when we saw our first episode (or movie) of Star Trek.

Before we get started we need to take a look at our competition, Cryptic’s missions.  Let’s consider the average Patrol, Genesis or repeatable Daily mission, Featured Episodes and various Enemy Front Episodes that are played by every star ship Captain in the galaxy.

  1. The patrol missions frequently start with a very simple 1 sentence dialog box from your tactical officer explaining you are about to get attacked, then you get attacked, then you kill everything on the map and leave.
  2. Genesis missions are either a space combat mission, ground combat mission, scan 5 things while there are enemies around, Aid the Planet, or the rare but beloved walk around and collect 10 DXP.
  3. Repeatable Daily missions are a little better, the dialog is dramatically improved, but players only read them once.
  4. Featured Episodes do a fantastic job of slowly building plot, such as a mysterious ship decloaking and then warping out, or otherwise giving you a non-combat interactive cut-scene where player is happy to read what’s going on because they know the story is going to be good.
  5. Enemy Front episodes (in Season 3 see your Ready Room computer for the reason I use this term ‘Enemy Front’), such as the ones delivered at launch and in Season 1, are themed around a region of the galaxy populated by the bad-guys of the episodes.  These episodes aren’t quite as polished as the Featured Episodes and don’t employ as many cool tricks, but they are really fun the first time you play through the game.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘get to the point, Allen’.  Well here it is: We can do better than 1, 2, 3 but not 4 or 5, at Foundry’s launch.  Why do I say this?  Cryptic’s well thought out episodes employ tricks we don’t have access to, but that’s okay because we have one advantage over them that they will never have: Time.  We can write, rewrite and ponder and wait to release a mission when we feel like it is ready, and Cryptic does not have that luxury.  This is why I am so passionate about technobabble and dialog and presentation of the mission, because we can slow down and take our time and not have t0 resort to abbreviations like we see in Genesis.  I could do a fantastic mission surrounding a ‘kill 5 things’ objective if I just add a little mystery, a little story, and a little believability with the help of technobabble.

I’m so confident that I can create a compelling ‘kill 5 things’ mission, that I’m going to do it, right now.  That’s right, I’m going to take my least favorite mission and make it shine like never before.  And here it is:

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Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy.  Last week we looked at some technology related technobabble that should give your science and engineering bridge officers something to talk about.  This week we’re going to get you up to speed on your Chief of Medicine’s commonly used phrases.  Medical technobabble is a very strange animal indeed and very difficult to master because you really can’t do surgery or bio scans or tricorder scans in the same way that you can shoot bad guys with a phaser. Hopefully this will give you a good starting point for a hook or complication for the player of your mission to solve.

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when writing medical hooks, complications and plot points, and I need to bring them into the spotlight before we move on to the terminology because we take a lot of these things for granted.  The first is that most alien civilizations look a lot like humans, but their insides may vary wildly.  You will want to research the Biology portal on Memory Alpha to see if the NPC’s race has any physiology that works or doesn’t work with the plot line you have in mind.  The second thing to keep in mind is that the player will often wonder “Shouldn’t I be concerned about exposing myself to unknown possibly deadly pathogens?”  The answer is somewhat complicated, but generally “no.”  While the Enterprise series required gel and a short quarantine of away team members before re-integration with the crew, in The Next Generation the transporter was regularly used as a Deus Ex Machina that would cure almost anything.  The third thing to keep in mind is that pathogens, poisons, and injuries are relatively easy to fix in most situations but surgery, diseases and healing after a lost limb is not always guaranteed. Simply getting rid of a pathogen or treating a genetic disease is only the first step, often times a patient will need a lot more help to get their body functioning normally again, and that’s where a player character Captain or a doctor or an Emergency Medical Hologram’s purpose becomes clear: to diagnose the problem, apply the treatment, and balance side effects and symptoms until the patient is healthy again.

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The latest episode of Stoked includes an interview with Cryptic’s Gozer, who reveals many updates, especially for KDF players.  Gozer also said a few words about the Foundry.  Although the full episode is worth watching, you can listen to Gozer’s specific comments on the Foundry around 26:30.  Here are the highlights:

Gozer’s impressions of the Foundry, after trying it out briefly: “It was really, really cool… This is pretty straight-forward… It’s much, much easier to use [than previous modding tools, like Unreal and Aurora]… I can see why people would get frustrated with those other tools.”

Later: “It’s important to get it functional and bug-free on a basic level, and then you can always add to it… It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.  I’ve always been a fan of user-generated content.”

Much later: “I can’t wait for you guys to get your hands on it.”

Gozer also reveals that Cryptic has been working on something like the Foundry long before they began work on STO.

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Make sure to watch the full episode at Jupiter Broadcasting, or feel free to watch it here:

Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy. Last week we took a look at some common go-to science technobabble that will help us write a mission feature or science related story complication and its solution.  This week we’ll look at some more technology related technobabble, including the mother of all technobabble, for the same basic purpose as last week: to provide a problem the player has to solve.

One of the important things to keep in mind is to use your best resource for technobabble research, Memory Alpha’s technology portal.  I find that the Science section is more useful to start from and many of those links will lead to technology sections, but sometimes you have to take a step back and say, “Am I missing something BIG here?”  Nothing is worse then getting halfway through your mission and realizing, “oh wait, wouldn’t the blah blah blah do this blah blah trick and make my entire plot break?”  There was an episode of Deep Space 9 that did this witha new alien species whose speech patterns were ‘unable to be picked out by the computer’ and then seemingly halfway through the Universal Translator sort of ‘figured it out’ and the story progressed from there, and I doubt you’ll be surprised if I say that through the first half of that episode I was screaming at my TV and the second half I was rolling my eyes and /facepalming.
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Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy. Last week we went into dialog relating to technology and help bridge the gap between a mission hook or complication and making the player feel like they are a part of solving it and not simply reading it.  This week we’re going to take a short break discussing conventions and procedures and instead take a look at some common go-to technologies that will help you write a mission when you don’t have anything too fancy in mind but feel the tug in your mind that says ‘I think this episodes needs a little more technobabble.’  Well, I’m glad you think so, and that’s where I hope this article will help.

First and foremost, flight!  Sorry for the cheese but most trekkies cringe when they hear the computer say “Left shields failing” when what the computer really means to say is “Port shields failing”.  This is an intentional choice by Cryptic to make the game more playable even at the cost of authenticity, and its one I agree with because if it is too confusing it will take away from the fun.  That said there are several words you can use to describe the scene a bit better and even encourage your player to swing their camera in a particular direction to check out what it is your are drawing their attention to. continue reading…

dstahl has dropped the bombshell on the official forums:

Season 3 release is scheduled for Dec 2nd.

The Foundry specific testing and Closed Beta starts today (so check your email starting today for invites).

The rest of the Season 3 update is scheduled to hit TRIBBLE in early November. The goal is that when the Season 3 release hits TRIBBLE, the Foundry is then open for everyone to test.

Note that even at Season 3 release to Holodeck – the Foundry will stay in a Beta state.

Good luck to everyone who gets in. May your bug hunting prove fruitful!

Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy. Last week we saw the UGC Foundry tools really only allow a Text field for the dialog of the NPC or Bridge Officer pictured and allows only a simple sentence (possibly 5 words?) for the Captain to respond, and I gave an example of using Impulse Engines as part of technobabble dialog for a simple introduction to a mission. This week we will delve more deeply into dialog relating to technology and help bridge the gap between a mission hook or complication and making the player feel like they are a part of solving it and not simply reading it.
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Now that pictures of the Foundry Editing Toolkit have been posted in the latest Engineering Report, we’ve finally got our first scrap of knowledge to work with. So, in time-honored Interwebz tradition; here’s a long-winded breakdown of the images, along with plenty of assumptions and guessing how The Foundry might actually work!

Standard disclaimers apply. This is derived from Screenshots of an early Alpha build of the Toolkit, and the final product may be entirely different in scope and purpose.

Also be warned that this is a long read, as it covers a lot of functionality.

Now read on…

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The Physics of Impulse

Greetings, this is Captain Allen of the Federation star ship Andromeda here again to continue my mission to bring technical speaking to every star ship Captain in the galaxy.  Last week we covered what technobabble is by looking at a famous example quoted on Memory Alpha.  This week we will look at writing some dialog that includes technobabble in the context of script for a playable mission that you will write as a script.  We just saw the alpha version of the Foundry tools and  I’m not entirely sure what is possible with the dialog system but it appears the first generation will have simply dialog “Text” and a button that you can write the Captain’s response in. continue reading…

Hi all,

I just wanted to post this video, because I think it shows the potential of some incredible UGC content if the camera tools can be used in conjunction with the Foundry toolset.

It was made by Rachel Garrett of the STOwiki, and it was originally posted here (thanks Alecto!):

Enjoy!

Technically Speaking

This is Captain Allen of the federation star ship Andromeda with an important message for all User Generated Content authors, you are the future of Star Trek Online.  The quality of your work will contribute to the success or failure of the last best hope for the future we’ve spent our lives dreaming about.  For the first time you will have access to a large audience for your Star Trek stories, but you have a lot of work to do if you want to design something that reads like Star Trek, plays like Star Trek and ultimately feels like Star Trek.  The goal of this column is to help you with one of the most challenging aspects of writing science fiction while staying true to the rich, detailed universe; to help you speak technically.

Here is one of the famous examples of speaking technically, or what the folks at Memory Alpha affectionately call “technobabble”.

“What if we’ve been looking in the wrong place? What if the nacelles aren’t being torn from the ship; what if the ship is being torn from the nacelles?”
“The hull of the shuttle is made from a tritanium alloy. At the speeds we’re talking about, that alloy could depolarize…”
“And create a velocity differential! The fuselage would be traveling at a different rate of speed than the nacelles!”
“That means all we have to do is create a depolarization matrix around the fuselage!”
“That’s it! Neelix, you’re a genius!”

– Tom Paris and Harry Kim, solving the problem of traveling at transwarp with technobabble

Now that’s a good example of technobabble, although none of it appears contradictory it just doesn’t make any sense, and that’s okay for a TV show.  In the context of a video game, some readers are going to either ignore all the text and just click “Next” or will scrutinize every word for violations of ‘canon’, but most are going to read and enjoy the story you provide because the entire reason they would play UGC is that they are looking for something new.  Cryptic developers have confirmed that there will be a rating system, so to be a successful author you will need to consider that most of your audience will want something more than “Captain, there are 5 ships.  We need to kill them.”  The correct use of technobabble will turn a good story into a good Star Trek story.

I would like to examine the conversation between Tom Paris and Harry Kim above and point out the differences between real words and technobabble so you can avoid common pit falls.

  • The word “nacelle” refers to the device that creates a warp field, you will notice all human constructed federation star ship vessels have these (most have 2 or 4 nacelles and a few rare ships have 1 or 3).  Not all warp capable ships need a nacelle or a pair of nacelles, Klingon dialog options should reflect that they do not use nacelles to generate a warp field (or warp bubble).
  • The word “tritanium” refers to a type of metal found in federation star ships, it is not real.
  • The word “depolarize” would imply that the metal’s electric field is no longer uniform and somehow affect the acceleration of some parts of the ship (and not others) and apparently tear the nacelles and the hull apart.
  • The phrase “velocity differential” is a fancy mathematical term that means “acceleration” or “change in velocity”.  The phrase “different rate of speed” would make any physics professor cringe, although most of Star Trek terminology already does that.  Just say “acceleration”.
  • · The phrase “depolarization matrix” doesn’t seem to make sense here, since the problem is the depolarization of the hull and/or nacelles.  A matrix is a mathematical term in Linear Algebra (math rules applied to collections of numbers rather than just numbers), and this phrase implies a technical device (not specified) would create a field (described by a matrix) that would depolarize (or perhaps re-polarize) the hull in a controlled fashion, which would hopefully prevent the “velocity differential” that would tear the ship apart.

Okay, that may or may not have made any sense to you and don’t worry if it doesn’t, the beauty of Star Trek is that the technobabble really doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to be arranged in a way that implies there is some technology that solves a problem (real problems like Newton’s first law or made up problems like depolarization).  So this is the whole point of this article, is to show you how to arrange it in a way that makes as much sense as possible and helps maintain or enhance the player’s suspension of disbelief.  Here are a set of rules that should help with that goal in mind:

  1. Do your research on Memory Alpha‘s wonderful Science portal
  2. Whenever possible, change your rough draft laymen speak into technical speak and then clarify the meaning of the phrase afterwards.  “And create a velocity differential! The fuselage would be traveling at a different rate of speed than the nacelles!”  See that?   Technical speak followed by laymen (oversimplified) explanation.
  3. Never cause a mission’s progress to stall because a player doesn’t know a technical term.  Make sure every mission critical term is explained thoroughly in some fashion (I thought the Bajor non-combat mission with the Cardassian’s did a fantastic job of this with the research you did at a computer terminal).
  4. Multiple bridge officers should be involved with dialogs and provide lots of information, even if it may seem extraneous, just make sure it isn’t overly redundant (don’t specify a planet is class M if you are following someone who beamed down to the surface, the context of the situation should affect the dialog).  Note that this example conversation occurs between two bridge officers with a 3rd person observing.
  5. Make the player characters think they are the ones solving the problem and not their bridge officers, give them choices that matter and give them the necessary information to make informed decisions. Above all else, avoid the Deus Ex Machina solution and avoid characters who are a Mary Sue.  In the example dialog above, the player could be the one asking their bridge officers the question “What if we’ve been looking in the wrong place? What if the nacelles aren’t being torn from the ship; what if the ship is being torn from the nacelles?” Make the player central to the solution, they are the star!

It  sounds like we won’t see any hard data on how to create dialog until the Foundry system goes beta in the first couple weeks of November, so start your research now to make sure your first mission’s dialog is a colorful technically as it is witty.  Speaking of witty, I am the wrong guy to ask, I never took college level writing courses.  Tune in next week for more specific tips for dialog involving the topic with which I am more familiar: Physics.

Allen out.