Friday, October 21, 2011

Help Cryptic Find More Dilithium Mining Revenue!

Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Je...Image via WikipediaAs my Trusty Gamer Friends may know, Cryptic has been bought out by Perfect World.  Perfect World (PW) publishes games in Asia, and they are all free-to-play, or f2p.  Well, you can't run games for free. There are costs involved, like server usage, electricity, staff to run the games, someone to empty the trash at night, and new corporate jets for the owner(s). So, f2p games run by giving 'premium content' to paying subscribers and maintain a 'store' where one can buy in-game items for money if we don't want to wait for them to drop from monsters or come as quest rewards. Usually these aren't expensive at all. You can spend a few bucks here and there for things like an armor component or weapon, a new ship skin, a mini-pet, and so on.  In games like LOTRO, this is pretty straightforward.

Cryptic, however, has decided to live up to their name and create a system that is so full of obfuscation that even Dennis Miller would be impressed. They have decided to add the 'dilithium component'.

Never mind the fact that in the time period in which the game exists, dilithium can be re-used with great ease and doesn't need to be mined. Cryptic decided canon can be ignored.  So, it is now a rare commodity that requires mining of dilithium ore and then refining the ore, because this is exactly what my heroic captain wants to do with her time.  Rescue planets from Borg invasions, cure deadly plagues in the nick of time, use our elite diplomacy skills to prevent interplanetary wars, mine dilithium ore for the next 500,000 years.

Aside from the fact that this is a completely immersion-breaking activity, the max amount of ore that you can refine in a 24 hour period is 8,000 DC.  This would be fine if all the items were, say, in the couple hundred DC range. They're not. Cryptic is charging 100,000 DC to make some items.  So, I can make 1 good item for my Vice Admiral in 13 days.  Welcome to the grind-fest, my fleetmates.  Of course, you can always buy the DC in the Cryptic store, wink wink, nudge nudge, sledgehammer sledgehammer.  So, I can pay real money to make items for my fleetmates. I like this idea about as much as I like the idea of stabbing myself in the eyeballs repeatedly.

Now, Cryptic so far has announced that they will be charging DC for ships, ship components, and any crafting items.  In the spirit of helping maximize Cryptic's profits, I'm offering this list of dilithium sinks that Cryptic can add to the game to make it even more grindy.

1. Charge dilithium for all Duty officers. Hey, we're going to use them to gain our whopping 50 dilithium per day.  At that rate, we should charge about 500,000 dilithium per DOFF.
2. Add in DC charges not only for each ship, console, and weapon, but also every color change and paint job style, windows, doors, and seats on the ship. We'll be generous and keep the charge at 1k per window.  We're going to add windows to each ship, however.
3. Give us a token for all trophies at the end of major series. Charge us dilithium to actually claim it from the trophy vendor. 25k DC seems about right. There will also be a 25k fee to place it on a hook.
4. Charge at least 100k for each skill point we earn.  That'll certainly encourage leveling up.
5. Charge 10k DC every time we hear a door go 'swoosh' in game.
6. Charge 30k DC for every quest opportunity.
7. Charge DC every time someone uses the "KHAAAAANNNN!!!!" emote. We should go for at least a million DC per emote use there.
8. There should be a fee for each breath that a toon takes. Of course, the respiration animation rate will be increased from the normal 14 per minute to approximately 256.  Per second.
9. Extract a departure fee of 500 billion DC for each person leaving the game. That will ensure that they never can leave, because as we all know, one of Gene Roddenberry's great ideals in Star Trek was indentured servitude.

Please feel free to comment on your ideas on how to increase Cryptic's DC revenue! I can't wait to hear your ideas, too!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recipe Swap! "Best Brownies"

I'm following a number of folks on Twitter, one of whom is @meesherbeans, because she works for Bioware, which is one of my favorite gaming companies, and she has a lot of fun tweets. This morning, she tweeted about peanut butter chocolate fudge. I already knew she was Cool, but anyone who can make great fudge AND game should be elevated to Gaming Goddess.  I offered my brownie recipe in exchange for her fudge recipe. Voila! We are now exchanging recipes on our blogs! How's that for Geeky Awesomeness?

Anyway, I originally picked up this recipe, "Best Brownies", from the Columbus Dispatch about 20 years back, and it's been the only one we've used in my home since then. It's better than any box mix and just as fast to put together.  The challenge will be not to eat them all before they cool off.  It is dairy and soy free.  If you like male brownies, add nuts. If you have nut allergies, leave out the almond extract and nuts. I think this counts as a pareve recipe for my Jewish friends, but someone can correct me if that's wrong.

My friends and I contend that all the calories fall out when you cut the brownies, but I suspect nutritionists would frown upon us for saying that too loudly.

Best Brownies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan with oil or spray with cooking spray.

"wet ingredients"
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil (vegetable oil is fine if you don't have soy allergen concerns)
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

"dry ingredients"
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cocoa (regular, not the Dutch version)
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

In one bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients until smooth. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients together, and then blend into the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges of brownie pull away from the edges of the pan. Do not use the 'toothpick test' to check if the brownie is done, or you will overbake it. When cool, cut into squares and serve, if you can manage to wait until they've cooled.  We never can.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How Lt. Uhura Created a Doctor

The Space Shuttle Enterprise rolls out of the ...Image via WikipediaThis weekend, my son and I had the great pleasure of going to the Chicago Star Trek Convention. We had a marvelous time meeting a variety of stars from nearly all of the shows except for the Voyager and JJ-prise folks, who weren't at this one. I laughed so hard at some of the antics of Dominic Keating, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes that I thought I was going to hurt myself. Conner Trinneer, John de Lancie, Rene Auberjonois, and Nana Visitor were also highly entertaining.  Rene and Nana even did a performance of "Cross Your Hearts" to support their favorite charity, Doctors Without Borders. If you've been looking for a good charity to give a donation, check them out. Check out Alien Voices as well. Leonard Nimoy and John de Lancie have worked hard on audio presentations of some classic sci-fi works. 

Leonard Nimoy gave us a poignant farewell, as this was his last official Star Trek convention appearance. It was so hard to say 'good-bye' to him. When you're 80 years old, though, you have to suck the marrow out of life. May you live long and prosper, Mr. Nimoy, and thoroughly ENJOY your retirement!

The highlight for me, however, was when Nichelle Nichols gave this amazing talk about how she'd become Lt. Uhura on Star Trek.  Then she brought me to tears when she spoke about Dr. Martin Luther King urging her to stay on the show when she resigned after the first season.  He described what it meant to the African-American community for her to be in that role, to have an African-American woman portrayed as a Starfleet officer, an equal.  She told us about Gene Roddenberry handing her back her resignation two days later, torn up into tiny pieces.  At the photo-op right after the session, I told her that I was a doctor today because of her role. She gave me a huge hug and said "Thank you!"  I treasure that moment.

This, of course, means I must share with you, my Trusty Friends, the story of how Lt. Uhura Created A Doctor.

I was destined for something in the science or medical field from early childhood. I remember reading books on nurses in first grade. My favorite shows were Star Trek, Emergency, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Bionic Woman. When a neighborhood friend sprained a finger, I splinted it with 2 popsicle sticks and a couple rubber bands. When other kids were writing fan mail to Farrah Fawcett and Erik Estrada, I was writing our local TV meteorologist, Paul Joseph, asking about tornadoes. Our Girl Scout troop leader decided that we Junior Scouts should work on our Collection badges one week. I was in my 'Geology/Paleontology phase' in 4th grade. I didn't have any dinosaurs to bring, so I gathered up my collection of very cool geodes, quartz crystals, and agates. The other girls brought in their collections of cute little stuffed kittens and puppies, took one look at my box of rocks, stared at me like I'd just grown 2 alien antennae on the top of my head, and took a step away.  That was the point in life when I realized I Was Different.

When I was growing up in the early 1970's, women had exactly 5 career possibilities: homemakers, maids, schoolteachers, nurses, and secretaries. Now, if someone wants to have a career doing that, awesome. Do your best at it, and love your career. Even at a young age, though, I knew those paths weren't quite right for me. The major female role models in my life--my grandmas, aunt, and mother were either secretaries, nurses, homemakers, or teacher, but I was called to something Different.

The only women who were doing anything other than The Approved 5 Female Careers (tm) were women in science fiction.  Of course, there was Princess Leia--a spunky, beautiful Senator who also happened to know how to handle a blaster better than some of the guys. She quickly became one of my heroes.

Then there was Lt. Uhura.

By the time I was old enough to remember Star Trek, the show was in syndication, so I was able to watch it regularly.  Here was a woman who was not a nurse, not a yeoman, but a full-fledged Starfleet Officer. She was serving on the bridge, an officer equal with the men. She did her job with professionalism and great competence. She was respected by the other officers and crew.  If I could have joined Starfleet and served with her, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I wanted to be a highly skilled, professional woman, respected by those around me. I wanted to be just like Lt. Uhura.

Fortunately, when I told my family that I wanted to be a doctor, they didn't laugh. They didn't even try to discourage me. They'd come to expect their daughter to be Different. I think they might have missed the antennae growing out of my head that the other girls in my school saw. My grandma who was a nurse was absolutely thrilled at my decision to become a doctor, and her support meant the world to me. I hope I can be as good a support for my son, who has decided to become an actor.  This is in spite of the fact that his decision scares the crap out of me. Having Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes repeat a litany of Terrible Things that Happen to Actors like drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide did not help me one bit. Thank you, Brent and Jonathan, for making my anxiety even worse. You'll make my psychiatrist very happy about the extra visits I'm sure I'll need.

Ms. Nichelle, you said 'thank you' to me. I want to thank you, though, for staying on Star Trek, for playing that role of a Starfleet bridge officer, and inspiring a shy young girl to pursue her dream, even when it wasn't a 'cultural norm'. Thank you for giving us Lt. Uhura.
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