Friday, March 28, 2014

Fish in trees arrived by comet

So, I just learned that Ray Comfort actually asked a geologist if fish hitched a ride on comets to Earth[1]. Apparently, this was part of a question series about why there is so much water on Earth and the geologist suggested that much of it could have come from cometary bodies during the formation of the planet.

Well, if fish arriving on comets explains fish to Ray Comfort; perhaps it would also explain why there are fish in the trees to Brother Jed Smock.

The latter point comes from something Brother Jed once said to thunderstruck listeners on ASU campus, saying something about how “fish don’t live in trees,” which shortly became a meme mocking him for whatever failed point he was attempting to make.

Those fish living in the trees arrived on comets.

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[1] paulchartley, Noah Proving Bullshit Pays [Video file] , Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZeztc2rtIA

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Interview: On Being a Captain in Star Trek Online

The folks over at MMO Anthropology had a chance to talk to a mutual friend of ours from Star Trek Online about what it’s like to be a captain in the game. Then I took a chance to write up an article about the interview over at SiliconANGLE. Be sure to watch the video and read the article to get a glimpse of some of what happens in STO and how it affects personal experience and expression In virtual worlds.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Reflections on chasing space bunnies: Epohh tagging in Star Trek Online

With the introduction of the Legacy of Romulus expansion in Star Trek Online, Romulan reputation became a thing—also, so did, chasing, petting, tagging, and fostering furry, antennaed, irradiated space bunnies called epohhs. The prolific and agile epohh tagger engages not just in a quaint little minigame (the chase and tag) but also research and a bit of animal husbandry and can generate up to 600 reputation marks as the result of along chain of duty officer missions.

I’ve been playing around with this system and I have some thoughts on how Cryptic has implemented it and the social phenomena that have emerged.

Epohh Tagging

To get the whole chain started, players head to Mol’Rihan (New Romulus) and transport themselves to the Epohh Fields. An aptly named area that’s filled with space bunnies and NPCs offering missions related to them.

Tagging involves rushing out into the field and using a tricorder on every epohh visible.

Some basic advice: Get used to the geography so that you can run between the areas that have a lot of epohhs, avoid going in when there’s too many other players already on the ground (competition lowers tagging opportunities), when tagging an epohh get an eye on the next target so you can get moving immediately.

The last part is extremely important so that you don’t accidentally chase the just-tagged epohh—which race off as if shot out of a cannon and vanish after a few yards of running.

While it’s possible to easily solo this mission (netting 2-3 tags easily) to get the maximum of 4 it’s necessary to grab a group. As a result, there’s numerous people in the area looking for FED or KDF teams who are doing tagging. Three people can easily get 4 every time.

Researching epohh tags

For every 4 tags it’s possible to run a duty officer mission that “researches tags.” Do this to generate Epohh Research—you need five of these to buy a space bunny kit (I mean an epohh pup.)

This assignment will always end in success so you can run it with any science DOFF, as a result, you can ignore the “success condition” trait on DOFFs and should instead aim for DOFFs with the critical traits of Efficient and Logical. Any DOFF with both would be superb.

Once you have an epohh pup you will then start running DOFF assignments to foster and care for them. The assignments grow epohhs through pups, to moppets, to adults, to elders. The same traits—Efficient and Logical—assist with criticals on the epohh fostering missions so keep those DOFFs in stable to run your farm.

The elders can be sold for 400 Romulan marks; or you can collect the various colors and have a nice Pokemon stable of space bunnies.

To discuss, read this thread on the Star Trek Online official forums.

Tagging Teams

Players seeking that lofty 4 tags from the tagging mission have started to band together to form tagging teams. Usually players can Pick Up Group (PUG) this and there’s usually some people all hours of the day seeking teams. It’s hard to tell so far how effective that is, but people seem to do well with it.

Fleets already provide a social infrastructure that many players use to put together tagging teams and it’s common to see similar Fleet names on players in the Epohh Field when I’ve been observing.

In 2012, an in-game channel was added called “Epohh Tag” similar to other social channels in the game to assist people in finding tagging teams.

That players can at-best get three (3) tags (and not the maximum) and even a group as small as two (2) players can get the maximum reward allows for a highly casual experience in the Epohh Fields for most players. However, it also provides strong encouragement to form groups and the presence of people seeking groups (and finding them) suggests a thriving grouping experience.

There is no epohh trade—this is because epohhs are bound-to-character and not tradable. The gotta-catch-em-all element of space bunnies could have made for a thriving epohh trade; but Cryptic’s decision to make the husbandry and fostering of space bunnnies part of Romulan reputation has probably caused the developers to segment epohh raising from the economy-at-large. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

City of Paradigm and Dr. Katherine Frase: How the Internet of Things Can Make Cities Smarter

city-of-paradigm-thumbnailI spoke with urban anthropologist Dr. Katherine Frase—also vested with the title of Chief Technology Officer, IBM Smarter Cities—about how the Internet of Things and sensor technology intersects with human efforts in metropolises and urban centers for my most recent article about smart cities at SiliconAngle.

You can go read the entire thing at “City of Paradigm: The Internet of Things.”

The article opens with an excerpt from a book that doesn’t exist (The City of Paradigm) but frames a narrative scene designed to show government officers and construction workers reacting to and acting on information from a sensor network and analysis of data therefrom.

Here’s some of what didn’t make it into the article but are still things we can all think about.

During our talk she spoke about some of the questions that arise from dealing with large groups of people who take part in a city infrastructure. One of the problems cities are facing is attempting to communicate information to people and doing so in a way that’s less likely to be misunderstood. Sensors can only go so far when attempting to manage traffic on the streets—they can tell us where the high congestion areas historically happen and help computer scientists model what happens when a particular core street is shut down.

However, getting traffic patterns to change is at its very crux a human communication problem. Telling people not to take a particular street (to reduce congestion) usually ends with a large number taking a specific side street, simply moving the congestion problem somewhere else. Actually easing congestion may take more than just modelling; but a communication solution that actively attempts to redirect humans to different traffic patterns. A radio broadcast or a simple message may not suffice.

Another interesting tidbit that she spoke about was how some utilities companies have been attempting to gamify their service to cause households to reduce costs. By allowing people to “compete” for better energy use they are hoping to pit house vs. house (or neighborhood vs. neighborhood) towards using less energy overall. By using gamification—comparison charts, badges, accolades, etc.—these utilities hope to use gamification theory to make better energy users out of customers.

If I have a chance, I might revisit these subjects in later editions of The City of Paradigm on SiliconAngle.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Star Trek Online: Solanae Dyson Science Destroyers

I noticed that a lot of people have been very interested in this new virtual items from Star Trek Online. These ships are a reward from participating in the 4th Anniversary Event in STO and bring a few new interesting mechanics into the game. As a result, the folks over at Vox Ex Machina sat down with a few players and looked at their Dyson science destroyers and wrote up a review.

Star Trek Online: Dyson Science Destroyer Review

Head over there and let them know what you think. There are two screenshots right now (from the Aves-class Romulan variant) but more screenshots are expected today.

I personally have an Aves-class and I’ve been slowing grinding up the Dyson reputation so that I can grab the Experimental Proton Weapon for its front arc. I know that there’s a dearth of consoles that buff proton damage, but I’m intrigued by a weapon that can act as both a cannon and a beam.

I’m not a very good Romulan player at this point--I’ve noticed I’m a cruiser captain who doesn’t deal well with warbirds—but the hit-and-run tactics needed by a battle-cloaking science vessel with some escort-upbringing do make for exciting space battles.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Star Trek Online: Hirogen Hunter Heavy Escort?

With Star Trek Online providing a surprising venue to talk about the nature of virtual items—and the fact that I have a job that lets me report on the goings-on in free-to-play MMO games—I decided to try an experiment by having a player in STO who flies one of these ships give me notes to review it by.

The result, this badass virtual item spotlight on GameOgre about the Hirogen Hunter Heavy Escort lockbox ship.

The game mechanics have generated a layered culture of thought about equipment, strategy, and button-press abilities. This means that reviews of these virtual items (the starships) includes a lot of jargon that to an outsider sounds and looks a lot like gibberish—but with a little bit of context quickly makes a lot of sense.

I am especially intrigued by the proliferation of the understanding of the Aux2Bat (referring to an ability called “Auxiliary to Battery”) starship build. A methodology that takes advantage of synergies between STO game mechanics that allow a single ship-equippable ability (on a bridge officer) to significantly lower skill cooldowns. Since the concept of A2B is so popular in starship building it was important not to leave it out of the review of the Hirogen Hunter.

Keeping in mind how STO players relate to ships, builds, and other players when referring to game mechanics will make for better, in-depth, audience-centric reviews. In the past I’ve covered the Catian Atrox Carrier, the Tholian Recluse Carrier, and the Romulan Dreadnought Warbird.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Star Trek Online: The Art of the Build

I know that the analysis from the Star Trek Online Winter Event survey is not done yet (and this might take a while) so this is a poor time to develop a new project, but I have a great idea for an essay and video series: STO: The Art of the Build.

I came up with this shortly after talking about the Dyson Solanae Hybrid-Technology Romulan science-destroyer warbird being released in STO Season 8.5. It comes with a set of consoles, weapons, and even different ship-costume effects that have sparked a lot of discussion on how to “build” it and its variants.

The premise is, that similar to many RPGs, STO has paper-dolls for players’ equipment--but players can also captain starships. A starship isn’t just another piece of equipment, it’s almost another character/class all on its own and players must spend time thinking of how to build them.

Not only does this come down to a choice in ship—based on specs, opportunity, and play-style—but there’s also a great deal of thought that goes into building up bridge officers, training them, equipment for the ship—from weapon layout to console choice to support weapons and abilities.

All of this collapses together alongside a large number of ships available to every faction, a huge amount of choice also exists in aesthetic effect as well as game mechanics.

To this end, the playerbase continually digests and spins out configurations, resources, and communicates on how to approach particular goals in game for PvE, PvP, and ship costuming.