Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Cruel Realities of NPCs

So, I’ve been playing Star Trek: Online a lot lately. It’s excellent, and I highly recommend it—not least because it’s F2P. I’m nothing if not a cheap bastard.

One of the aspects of the game that I’ve enjoyed the most is the Duty Officer system, kind of hybrid between Pokemon-type card games and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance‘s mission system. In short, players get a set of minor officers (Duty Officers, or Doffs for short) with various specialties that can be assigned to a rotating list of available side missions. After a certain period (between 30 minutes and 24+ hours), the assignment will conclude and either reward the player with some loot or end in failure (and possibly the “death” of the Doff). Importantly—at least for this post—these assignments are carried out autonomously; the player assigns the officers (and tries to maximize the profits and minimize the risk of failure by choosing appropriate skills and traits) but the gods of RNG mostly control the outcome. These Doffs are bots “managed” by the player.


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The Tyranny of the Battery

So, not to sound all fuddy-duddy, but batteries are a terrible thing.

Let me be clear: batteries allow us to do some amazing things. Portability is, of course, right at the top of that list. We can cut the cords and soar free with all of our electronic goodness.

That’s the promise of batteries, anyway. And that’s what makes them so frustrating – I *should* be able to roam the world, free to check out all the wonder and amazement that is this electronic universe.

Instead, I find myself constantly in search of the next outlet to plug in and charge my stinking batteries. My life is controlled by the need to constantly power up. This situation is not helped at all by the divide between what charge my various batteries are capable of holding and what they actually hold. My monster laptop? 2 hours, tops, on the 8-hour battery pack. My phone? I’m charging it at least twice a day, and that’s with very little use. Ditto most of my other electronic paraphernalia.

I don’t make this charge (get it???) without a bit of perspective. I realize the tremendous social, economic, and historical position I am in that allows me to carry around multiple, always-connected devices in order to watch re-runs of Arrested Development or quickly check in on the latest witty Twitterisms. This is a complaint of privilage, to be sure.

Nevertheless, this always-on life is dictated more and more by the need to remain always-on, and that requires juice, which requires access to that juice, which requires me to hunker down every couple of hours wherever I can find a free outlet. I’m re-corded. I’m not soaring. And I don’t like it.

/end rant.