The End of Blaugust

It’s the last of of August, which means it’s the last day of Blaugust. So, what does this mean?

As far as my goals…I had 31 posts (this being 32). I might not have made all of them within the proper calendar day in my time zone (sometimes you just get into playing games so much, and then it’s “oh crap, it’s 11:43pm, gotta make that post!”), but I did have a post for every day, so that’s great. Also I’m pretty pleased with the quality of the posts, for the most part. Not too many low effort short posts (there are some low-effort longer ones…).

It was even mostly about video games, which surprised me. I didn’t think I would have that much to say. I have even more to say, more ideas, that I’ve come up with that I just haven’t had the time to think about enough to jot down. So that’s comforting. I have more to do, so the blog won’t close down.

I do wish I had taken even more time to play more games, but ESO just sucked me right in. Unfortunately, there’s not too much to talk about there, yet, aside from what I’ve already done. I expect that, as I get deeper into the story, and stop being a scrub, I’ll get more to talk about. Or at least post screenshots about.

I’ve already known that I like to post a lot of screenshots, with a pithy/snarky line or two. I do that a lot at other places I post. I’ve tried to keep most of that out of the blog, so far. Part of it is that it kinda detracts from my point, sometimes, when I actually have a point. And part of it is that my humor doesn’t always transfer – this blogging community I’ve stumbled into is rather different than other places I hang out. But maybe in the future I’ll post more of that. Once I figure out how to make captions more caption-y with this layout.

So there it is. I think I done gud. I’m not hanging up my hat yet, though without pressure things will get a bit lighter around here. But not dead. Unfortunately for those few that read this.

Diving Into the Cracks: The Nebula Class (and Its Antecedents)

I’ve decided that I’m going to use the title “Diving Into the Cracks” as my series of headcanon for various series. It’s probably going to be mostly Star Trek, since that’s what I have most headcanon for, having thought about it for years and years. As usual with headcanon, I’m going to try to not defy actual canon, because the point, or at least my point, is to link the various things I see in canon (and other works, like vidya games) together into a more seamless whole. Star Trek gets the bulk of my attention not only because I’ve been exposed to it since I was a baby, and not only because there’s just so much there, but also because a lot of people who don’t really think too hard about it think it’s very inconsistent, whereas I want to create consistency. And as a part of this series, I’ll give background and explanation as to why I think the way I do, just like the last one. I don’t think most of them will be anywhere near as long as the first, since it’s mostly small things I worry about.

Small things like giant space ships. The Nebula class is that beasty up top there. If you think that looks an awful lot like the Enterprise, that’s because it does. It started life as a kitbash of a normal Enterprise model set for the TNG episode “Best of Both Worlds (Part 2)”. They needed a lot of ships for a scene – a wreckage scene, since a whole fleet of Starfleet ships had been shreked by the Borg. Since there were only so many different kinds of ships that had been made, and since the scene would only be shown for a few moments, and since all the ships would be half-destroyed anyways, this was acceptable. Several other ships were also kitbashes of the Enterprise model – we’ll talk about some of those, too.

Later, the general ship shape was made into the guest-star ship in the episode “The Wounded,” where it was decided that they wanted a spiffy new ship, one that looked like it could be a contemporary of the Enterprise, not one of the old movie ships that the show had been using for the past several seasons. That’s the ship at top, by the way. It’s not just a regular kitbash; even though it uses the same shape as the Enterprise model, the lower section is definitely different. After this, the ship would go on to make several appearances in the various shows, even getting a digital model made for Voyager and DS9 (which was a lot more like the Galaxy-class Enterprise).

Now, the reason I am adding this to the series is that a lot of people assume that it’s an offshoot of the Galaxy class. But I don’t think so, at all. In fact, I think that it’s a precursor to the Galaxy.

The first question, if you think it’s an offshoot of the Galaxy, is why? Why would you have that ship like that? It’s all squished and stuff. “But the pod!” you might exclaim, “that answers everything.” Not really. Why take off the neck, for the pod? And it’s not like they can’t put a pod there, even with the neck – they put another engine nacelle there for the Galaxy: ExTREME Edition, after all.

Also, you have to answer why the ship looks older on the inside. Why does the bridge look so different – so old-fashioned? Why is everything so much tighter? We see three different bridges for this ship, and none of them are the big Galaxy-class bridge.

Nebula Bridge, “Second Sight” DS9

So, my answer is: the Nebula came before the Galaxy. The bridges are older-fashioned because they are actually older. The neck was added to the general design of the Nebula, not the reverse. The pod was to add functionality to an otherwise somewhat lacking design.

So that’s the simple explanation. Now we get to the more complicated (and fun) headcanon. You see, there were a few Enterprise kit-bashes in that Wolf-359 graveyard. But unlike the Nebula, they were more heavily modified, including changing the window size – and thus, the scale of the saucer and the ship. Here are the kitbashes I’m going to be talking about: the Nebula, the New Orleans, the Cheyenne, and the Springfield. (There’s also the Freedom, but it’s ugly and nonsensical, so I don’t care.) As you can see, there are two different nacelle types – one that looks like a pen with a cap on it, and one with the familiar Galaxy nacelles. So, we can posit that they are of at least two different generations of ships. From here on out, I’m just making things up, based on all of the above.

Springfield butt, by Rick Sternbach

In the latter part of the 2200’s, there were several smaller powers that were friendly with the Federation. They would have liked to join, but for one problem: the Klingons. At this point in history the Klingons were about equal in power to the Federation, and highly aggressive; indeed, from about the 2250’s on, there was a state of cold war between the two powers, which almost went hot, save for the intervention of godlike beings. These smaller powers didn’t want to get involved in that mess, so they just stayed friendly. Some of them were technologically similar, or even more advanced, than the Federation, but they were small, sometimes involved just with their home system, so they would be devastated if such a war ever came to them.

However, with the signing of the treaty at Khitomer after the explosion of Praxis, things in that corner of the galaxy cooled down significantly. Additionally, advances in warp drive with the advent of the transwarp drive meant that space, at least Federation space, was quite a bit smaller, in practical terms. Those smaller powers would now be relatively safer as a part of the Federation, rather than standing separately.

Cheyenne Class, by Rich Sternbach

One of those powers was Trill. The Trill had been friendly with the Federation ever since its founding, but never joined up themselves. They did have a thriving starship design program of their own. One of the hallmarks of Trill ships was modularity: often their ships had interchangeable pieces, or places where they could add on modules.

One of those Trill design companies merged with/was absorbed by one of the Federation’s major design teams, Yoyodyne, when Trill joined the Federation. This was the company that designed the famous Constitution-class ships, along with the Miranda and the Constellation. However, a rival firm had designed the Excelsior, which blindsided Yoyodyne, in that it was better at pretty much everything, and had transwarp drive integrated in the very design. With the new Trill ideas, they hoped to come back into the good graces of Starfleet (prestige being at least as valuable as any currency).

The first two designs weren’t flagship material, but covered the roles of attack cruiser and fleet cruiser – the Cheyenne and Springfield, respectively. The Springfield in particular retained the traditional Trill modularity: it had both a top and bottom pod that could be used for various mission parameters. Starfleet wasn’t too hot on either of these designs, but ordered some of both, since it was a time of experimentation and growth.

After a few decades, the Excelsior was getting a bit long in the tooth. Still quite the capable platform, but it wasn’t quite up to flagship snuff. So Starfleet held its usual trial competition – who would get to design and build the new flagship. In the past couple of decades, there had been another leap in warp engine design, so the old stuff just wouldn’t do. Yoyodyne decided to go with what it new – big, ovoid saucer, with a modular focus. To this end, it developed the Nebula. It was significantly larger than the Excelsior, and much faster. It also didn’t have integral torpedo tubes, as this was an exploration vessel, and a vessel of peace. There was a modular pod that could add on any major functionality necessary (including more weapons if needed). Yoyodyne was so confident in this design, that it created a smaller ship, the New Orleans, as a direct replacement to the Excelsior.

New Orleans, by Eaglemoss

However, Starfleet didn’t chose the Nebula as its new flagship class. It was just too radical a departure from the traditional Starfleet template. The new flagship would be the competing Ambassador class. However, the Nebula was indeed a good design, and was put into basically every other job a ship of its size and versatility could handle. The New Orleans, not so much, since the Excelsior was still a very viable platform. But a few New Orleans ships were still ordered – it was a good ship too, just not necessary.

However, the Ambassador turned out to be a bit of a flop. It didn’t have quite the speed or power – or bite – necessary to keep the Federation safe, what with the increasing aggression of minor hostiles like the Tzenkethi and the Cardassians. Yoyodyne was given another chance – the Nebula was good, but too strange and presumptive. If some of the kinks could be ironed out, it would make a great flagship. And so, with a bit of modification (including more spacious areas and a return to the traditional Starfleet ship form), the Galaxy was born. It was still modular – just on the inside, since any internal part could be swapped out without too much fuss.

Pokemon Masters Is Go

When the newest main-line Pokemon game was announced, I was a tad excited. Sure, I didn’t get the last few outings (I think I ended with the first Unova one, what was that, X/Y?), but this looked nice. Well, sorta. The girls looked nice, at least. The pokemon looked like pokemon, nothing special. And the world art looked like crap, for a Switch game. Like an indy game, not like a game from a company that has basically all the money. And then there was news that the National Dex, or whatever it’s called, won’t be in the game, at all. Because it’d be too much work. Now, I don’t really care about catching them all (in fact, that’s one of the worst parts of the series, in my opinion), but that sort of attitude really rustles my jimmies, especially when it comes from a company that has practically infinite resources to do what it wants with a game. I mean, pokefans (even cooled ones like me) have been waiting for a main-line console Pokemon for years, and this is what they’re offering? Even so, I was going to use this as an excuse to finally get a Switch, even if grudgingly.

Then I learned about Pokemon Masters, or rather, what Pokemon Masters is really about. When I first heard about it, I just thought it was a Pokemon gacha game. I’d already passed on Pokemon Go (I don’t like pokemans nearly enough to get me to take walks outside), and this sounded like an even worse idea than that, especially with a mainline game coming. But no, it’s not about collecting pokemon, but collecting trainers. Sure, the trainers come with pokemon, but the trainers are the main focus. Now that I can get behind. I already play other waifu collectin’ games, so this was a no-brainer for me.

While I haven’t played that many of the games (Just R/B/Y, B/W1&2, and X/Y), so I’m not really familiar with the characters, that hasn’t stopped me from getting into these games before. Hell, not even knowing the language the game’s in hasn’t stopped me before. So yah, I’m in.

And it officially came out today. So, hurray for that.

Just a few problems, though.

First, I couldn’t find it on the Google Play Store. Odd, that, a major release just wasn’t there? Now, this is on my Android tablet, which is kinda a toaster, but at least it’s better than my cracker of a phone. I was able to find the game on QooApp just fine, and it installed no problem. I had read that this was only working for 64 bit systems…so not a lot of phones. Not the best way to go about this, methinks.

Next, it asked for a whole bunch of info. I was able to deny pretty much all of it though, which was nice. I guess they want to be extra careful, with a game a lot of kids will be playing (they hope). I was even able to tell them to stuff it with the ads. And I didn’t even have to register with my Google account, which I didn’t want to do in the very likely case that I would want to reroll.

It gives options for playing in English or Japanese. That was rough, because I don’t want English voices, but I definitely want English text. It didn’t give the option there to mix it up. It is there in the in-game options, though, so that was nice. I don’t recall if you get those options until before or after you start the first chapter of the game (the options are kinda hidden even after), so I played the first chapter with the English voices. You know, they had both Pokemon money and DeNa money, but they couldn’t even get the cartoon dub actors. Pretty sad. And they do the whole one-line/grunt thing too, which is both sad, because lack of effort, and nice, since I didn’t have to listen to the voice acting so much. There are stories for every trainer I believe, which might be fully voiced, but probably won’t; I haven’t gotten that far yet.

The gameplay is a lot like the triple battles from the games. You get three trainers with one pokemon each, and so does your opponent. However, this isn’t turn-based, but is rather active-time, so you can’t just put your device down in the middle of battle. I don’t know how much I do or don’t like that yet, but at least it’s something different. That seems to be the extent of the battles. Again, I’m not very far, so maybe it changes things up a bit.

The monitization seems to be rather stingy. You don’t get a lot of free rolls, even though this is the beginning of the game. After the first chapter, you only have enough gems to do four single rolls – many gachas give you at least a ten-roll to start, so you feel like you’ve gotten something good (and so gacha vets have enough to decide to reroll or not). From what I understand, you only get enough gems for a ten-roll after playing through all the current story content. Also, they give a lot of the fan-favorites for free during the story, which doesn’t mean a whole lot in the long run (alts are always a thing), but at the beginning that doesn’t induce rolling very much. I guess they are hoping they’ll have a guaranteed audience that will roll everything no matter how stingy the game is, like FGO has.

Some people were complaining that there is a scam gacha that can only be obtained with paid currency, but that’s normal. I guess they are all Dokkan Battle players, which is the only popular game that I know of that allows those deals to be obtained with free currency. I just wish there were a clear graphical difference between the paid currency and the free currency – both use the same crystal icon, whereas games like Dragalia Lost of Granblue Fantasy clearly use different currencies.

I actually got a SSR in my first four rolls though, so I’ll probably keep this account.

The biggest issue, for me, is the performance. I run the game on a tablet, which isn’t the best, but is better than a lot of phones. But I’m getting <15fps. Probably <10fps. It’s slow enough that there is input delay. And I’m not the only one – if you don’t have a high-tier device, you’re going to have trouble. Really poor optimization, for a game that you want young people to play.

It’s only highlighted the troubles I’ve had with this tablet. I can’t even hardly play Princess Connect sometimes, because the lag is so bad. Maybe it has low RAM, or a crap processor, because it seems the problem is with rendering multiple layers – in PriCon it’s whenever there’s a mist effect, and with DL it’s with the menus swooshing in (almost never have trouble with actual gameplay slowdowns in either game though). I might just be in the market for an Android-enabled Chromebook, because my 5.5yo laptop is also (literally) coming apart. Good thing I didn’t buy a Switch yet, eh?

This doesn’t hit close to home at all. Nope…

Spark Time

Finally, summer in Granblue Fantasy is just about over. That means all the summer limiteds are back in the gacha, and this year’s are on rateup. I’ve been saving my currency since…April, I think. That means I have enough to roll 300 times, which means that I can pick any of the rateup characters. Trouble is, I don’t have any in mind. Oh well, we’ll see what happens…

Pretty dang good. The rate for SSR’s (which is what really matters) is 6% right now, so the average is 18. Kinda disappointed I didn’t get Summer Arulu, but can’t win everything I guess.

Also, there’s a new event. More on that later.

Look at all those new characters.

Tuesday Short: Hand Sanitizer

Tuesdays are hard for me to blog. It’s my first day of work, which means my weekend was the past two days. And on my weekends (besides church and chores and stuff) I want to play games, not read about them. So I’m behind on my blog reading. And then Tuesday is my one really busy day at work, due to various things. So yah, you get a short post today.

(An aside: “Sanitizer” wasn’t in my spellcheck. Wut.)

So yah, hand sanitizer. This stuff really works. Use it. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, use it. I don’t want your germs, man. And you don’t want mine, so I use it all the time. You don’t need anything fancy – even the generic store brand (up there is the Wal*Mart brand) will do.

But there’s a trick to it. How do you think that it kills 99.99% of germs, but doesn’t hurt you? It’s in the method of killing. (Though don’t drink it. That’s bad.) The way it works isn’t poison, but drying. Basically, since it’s mostly alcohol, it dries pretty quick. But there is some water in it (the amount depends on the type of sanitizer), so that drying action draws out the water from all the germs. Since they aren’t prepared to go into “dry” mode (some of them will go into a hibernation-like state when things get too dry, but they need a bit of prep time), they die. And, since your skin is already pretty dry, what with that layer of dead skin cells up top, you, the human, are fine to use this a lot.

Hopefully you noticed that “dry” part. Because that’s the important thing. It only works as it dries. Just putting some on your hands, getting all lathered up, and then wiping it off, does NOTHING. It has to dry. That’s why you rub your hands while using it – not only does it give more coverage to the chemical, but it also heats things up, making it dry faster, and thus be more effective.

So, there’s your advice for a Tuesday. I guess you can use hand sanitizer on your gaming controls as well, though I wouldn’t use it on screens and such, just to be safe.

Dress-up In Games

I think one of the draws of some games, especially some RPG’s, is the ability to customize the characters’ looks. Sometimes it’s pretty simple, and sometimes it’s really complicated. When I read reviews of RPG’s in particular, a big deal is often made of character customization – how deep it is, how complicated it is, just what it can do, or if anything is absent. MMO’s in particular tend to be pretty heavy in the character customization game, both in the creation and in the later parts of gameplay.

For me, this is one of the reasons I will start a game, and a potential reason for me to keep with a game, or if I drop it if I get bored. For example, I’ve been playing Star Trek Online ever since it went F2P in 2012. I’ve done just about everything I give a single care about doing, many multiple times. And I’m not really digging the direction it’s been going the past year or so. So, why stick with it? In part, because of the character customization. I have more than 20 current alts, with several I’ve made and deleted over the years. The character customization is very deep, while not being too complicated. Not only can you customize your PC, but you can also fully customize all of your bridge officers. And not only that, but you can customize your ships too! It’s great. In fact, it’s so great that the few problems really stand out – limited color pallets, same colors sometimes don’t match on different outfit pieces, and do on. There’s a reason people say the real endgame is space barbie.

And part of why I wanted to get into FFXIV and Elder Scrolls Online was some fantasy character creation, with the ability to get more gear and nice outfits. FFXIV has really delivered, even though I’m still in the early game. ESO, though, has been a bit of a disappointment, personally, despite the very wide array of outfit pieces. To get into why, I’ll have to explain a bit of theory.

The way I see it, there’s a three-way continuum for how outfits can go: a sexy-cute-cool continuum. For these purposes, I’ll define ‘sexy’ as ‘designed to emphasize the (ideal) physical form,’ ‘cute’ as ‘designed to invoke a feeling of youthfullness or childishness,’ and ‘cool’ as ‘meant to looks awesome’. Not exactly scientific, but it’s one of those things where ‘you know it when you see it’. And these are sort of objective; while a ‘sexy’ outfit might not be particularly sexy to you, or me, it’s clearly meant to be that way, as opposed to cute or cool.

(And of course, there’s another axis orthagonal to this spectrum, which I’d say is something like ‘extremeness’. Kinda like a contrast, or darkness/lightness spectrum. So, say, the traditional Amish dress, and a gothic lolita cosplay dress, would both be at the ‘cute’ corner. The Amish dress would be at the unextreme end, while the gothloli dress would be at the extreme end. In fact, I’d say most of the things normal people wear normally would be at the unextreme end, somewhere on that triangle.)

I’m going to give some examples, from Granblue Fantasy, for both male and female characters. Male is a bit harder, since what (straight) dudes, which is what most game devs are, would find cool, others would find sexy. And ‘cute’ male outfits are few and far between, for the same reason.


And of course, there’s everything in between.

My problem with ESO is that almost every piece of gear, and even the outfits, are weighted towards the ‘cool’ corner. Some of the cash shop outfits are heading towards the ‘cute’ corner, but even there they’re pretty much all at the less extreme part of that spectrum. And of what few things are at the ‘sexy’ part of the triangle…they aren’t very sexy to me. I mean, this is I think the sexiest outfit available for PC’s:

And that doesn’t do a whole lot for me. Part of it is that I’m more into the lower body, and that’s completely covered. But another part is that the character model itself doesn’t lend itself to much sexiness, at least as far as they’ve made sexy outfits. Look up there: if you didn’t have the bra thing, would you even know it’s female? (The male version of this outfit is just that without the bra.) Heck, there are boob window dresses (common in Vvardenfell, especially in the Telvani areas), but because of the anti-cleavage body models, and the dress colors that tend to match the skin tones of the NPC’s, it’s hard to tell that that’s what they are.

Now, it’s pretty shallow of me, but if I’m going to make a female character, I want her to look quite different from a male character I could have made. If I just wanted some cool armor (and especially a cool helmet), does male or female even matter at that point? What I want is a female character that is sexy and/or cute, somewhere on that left side of the triangle. Or in the extreme part of the center.

This is just a minor complaint about ESO though. It’s quite the fun game, with lots to do, and the cool armors and outfits are quite cool. But the character customization and dress-up isn’t the thing that’s going to keep me coming back for years and years.

FFXIV, though…

ESO: Outta Vvardenfell

I’ve done pretty much everything I can do in Vvardenfell at my low level, so I figure it’s off to the rest of the world. I think the place to be would be the starter zone for the Ebonheart Pact. Which would probably be the province with Ebonheart, which is Stonefalls. Conveniently that’s just across the sea a bit, although it doesn’t matter because there’s a wayshrine in Davon’s Watch. Being one of the zone hubs, there’s a ton of fresh quests waiting. One is pretty insistent – I need to see some guy RIGHT NOW. So, off I go, and what do I get, but being knocked out and sacrificed, and sent to Coldharbor. Which is basically Hell I guess. Not quite what I had in mind. Fortunately, this seems to be a rookie quest, so it’s easy (and I guess all my stuff I was carrying got sent to hell with me, so that was helpful). Break out of hell, no sweat.

But then we end up in some weird place, not Davon’s Watch, or even Stonefalls. Turns out someone found a girl falling from the sky (just like my Japanese animes), into the ocean. Fortunately, all that heavy armor floats, and they were able to fish me out. Unfortunately, there was a massive hurricane, so the ship that rescued me got shipwrecked itself. Now we’re at some place called Khenarthi’s Roost, which is an independent island the Dominion is trying to court. All the way down at the south end of the map. Some friendly Khajit tells me to blend in.

I’m sure my Bouyant Armiger and Ashlander gear fits in well with the Dominion guys. Maybe I should change that…

Well, I just hope they don’t recognize that tattoo as relating to Vivec. But whatever. I guess this is the Dominion player newb zone. Perhaps the game thought that, since this is a Bosmer character, it should go to the Dominion zone. Or maybe the allegiance one picks during character creation doesn’t matter. Anywho, I do all the quests, save the island, and end up helping the enemy get a new port island. I’m sure Vivec is proud of me.

That eventually getting done, I go back to Stonefalls to get on with what I was doing. Somehow end up going to Orsinium, but again I go back; I guess that’s DLC stuff that I don’t want to deal with right now. There’s an invasion of Stonefalls by…someone, I don’t know if it’s the Dominion or the Covenant. But they’re fighting the guys that gave me a quest, so they’re my enemy too. I save Davon’s Watch, by letting some guy defy his ancestors and summon an ancient monstrosity that’s totally not going to bite us in the butt any time in the near future, I’m sure.

This is basically my character.

Then I find another quest marker, and it’s some person that tells me they’re the ones that fished me out of the water. I guess if I wasn’t trying to confuse the game by going against the racial allegiances, they would have, after I escaped Coldharbor. They then send me to what is the Ebonheart Pact newb island. I’m now 31, so I’m sure I won’t be overleveled for that either.

Saturday Music Post

Yah, this is lazy. Don’t feel so good, so don’t care.

I’m not really one that cares too much about music, to be honest. Or rather, I’m not one that cares to go searching for new stuff. Hell, I generally prefer music that’s older than I am. Sometimes I do find new stuff, though, even if it was at one point very popular.

So it was with this song. I was driving home the other day, and this came on the radio. I knew it was Chicago, but I don’t think I’ve heard it too much before. When I got home, I immediately went to find it, and I’ve listened to it over and over.

Can’t say I really like the lyrics, but I rarely do. But the music and singing are pretty great, and go together very well. I mean, there’s a reason Chicago is so beloved.

An aside – usually Youtube puts some Heart song after this. I don’t get their autoplay algorithms. I know it’s partly based on your listening history, and part on related songs (I supposed determined by what other people listen to with the song), but the two don’t really go together, I don’t think, other than being “80’s pop music”.

For some reason, this is Dragalia Lost’s gacha-rolling music:

I think someone was having a giggle over at Nintendo. Or Cygames.

Diving Into the Cracks: Transporters and Replicators in Star Trek

I think part of the fun of getting into a fictional world of any sort is really getting into that world. I love all the technical details of everything (as long as it’s fun – most harder/”realistic” sci-fi bores me *coughHonorversecough*). Whether it’s actual technical details, like about ships, tech, or magic, or other more esoteric details, like the differences in practice and beliefs of different sects of a religion, or politics, history, or whatever, I dig that. (I never thought the politics/talky portions of the Star Wars Prequels were boring, at least as far as that goes; Lucas’s sins are manifold, but that wasn’t one of them.) I figure a lot of fans are like me, because we keep seeing all these sort of technical manuals and background sourcebooks and whatnot. Star Trek in particular seems to attract that kind of geek.

But there are different levels of these geeks. Some folks just are content to get the basics of how a thing works, just so the various plots make sense (or fail to make sense, when things are inconsistent). Others like to get more into the details of things, even thinking of headcanon to fill in the gaps that the official canon leaves (because no single writer can think of all possible permutations of every situation for every thing in their work). And still others think way too much about stuff, and read too much into things. I’m obviously of the middle, detailed-yet-balanced group.

Why bring that up? Well, today I’m going to be writing about transporters and replicators in Star Trek. In essence, these are magical devices that cheaply help move the plot along, and add a bit of futuristic spice to the franchise universe. One, as suggested by its name, transports things and people to where they need to go, without use of intervening vehicles. The other is a little less obvious by name, though its primary purpose is to magically copy food and drink for the characters, without having to have anyone physically make the food (that takes time and props and maybe even another set for a kitchen and/or dining room, and more actors too). Of course, in-universe this is technology, not magic, but the plot functions are the same.

Of course, as tech it can be explained. And geeks and nerds love explaining stuff like this. Unfortunately, general TV audiences don’t really care too much about how their story devices work, and the vast majority of TV writers are not scientists or engineers, who give a crap about how things work other. A more caring writer, who has inclinations towards making things make sense, though, will at least put in plausible-sounding technobabble, to make the magic make sense. Thus, we hear about things like “Heisenberg Compensators” and “matter streams” and the like. To the fans who like to make explanations, these nuggets are gold.

Unfortunately, some only get to the shallow explanation. Since it is shallow, and most people don’t care to go deep, these shallow explanations can spread around fandom, and become the “accepted” explanation. In the case of replicators and transporters, it has become the “accepted” explanation that these things convert matter to energy, and/or vice versa.

To me, this is a very shallow look at how these techs work. The idea comes from one time that some character said something about how the transporter turns matter to energy and back again; and for replicators, how Voyager had to ration replicator use because of energy concerns. This is shallow, because it’s a valid explanation, but doesn’t go into any detail, or look at any contradictions (and with about a zillion episodes of television, there are going to be contradictions).

I think that the first thing that is wrong is that matter-energy is being converted at all. This doesn’t seem to be the actual case. Let’s start with replicators, because it seems that it only goes one way (it actually doesn’t – at least once characters talk about returning dirty dishes to the replicator, which means the process is reversible). If things were merely made up out of whole cloth (from pure energy), just how much energy would be needed? Well, let’s assume you have a 1kg meal set (which includes all the dishes needed for the meal), since that’s easy for calculations. Energy-matter conversion is a simple equation E=mc^2, where the energy will be in Joules (J). With 1kg of matter, that comes out to 89.9 billion-million J. That’s a lot. Like, seriously, a lot. If all that were to come out in an explosion, it would be the equivalent of 21.48 megatons of TNT. To put that into perspective, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the United States was ‘only’ 15 megatons. (This makes sense: the way nuclear weapons work is that the nuclear reactions convert matter to energy; that 15 MT device (“Castle Bravo”) converted about .7kg of it’s 10,700kg total mass into energy.)

Is it realistic to think that this much energy is flying through the ship (or home! because normal citizens on planets have replicators in their house) every time someone wants some din-dins? We know that Star Trek ships have some…problems with their energy systems, and exploding in red-shirts’ faces. But that’s on the order of hand grenades, not nukes.

Plus, to get that much power, they need some power source. And the only way to reliably get that much power is with an matter-antimatter reactor, which converts mass (matter and antimatter) into energy. Fortunately, this is how a Trek ship generally gets its power. However, that power comes at the use of fuel. To get that 1kg meal, you’d need 1/2kg of matter and 1/2kg of antimatter. At least, because that assumes 100% efficiency, and as far as we know, Trek tech hasn’t learned quite how to violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. That’s fuel that going directly into making your massive pile of tendies, and not twisting the laws of physics every which way to move you several hundred times the speed of light, without any inconvenient relativity effects.

So, if not that, then what? Well, there are other hints. The sfx used for the replicators is very similar to the sfx used for transporters. Also, we know that certain things cannot be replicated – living things, sufficiently complicated stuff, gold-pressed latinum, and so on. So…what if the replicator is merely a small transporter? But, you ask, how does the replicator get all its meals? Is there still a galley, making whatever could possibly be asked for?

No. What a replicator is doing is taking from stores of other substances, and then making it into whatever you ask. These things have to be programmed, so it’s not like it can make anything (thus, the ‘replicator’). And you have to already have the base substances, so you can’t just magic up some latinum and be rich instantly (and/or crash the galactic economy) – you have to have latinum already in the replicator storage pool. And, since most of what is made with replicators is food…where can you get extra matter for food? That’s right: the toilet! That’s just used food, so it’s cool. Rearrange all the atoms in poopoopeepee, and you get food, and no longer the nasty stuff. Simple, easy recycling: good on a spaceship.

But what about the high energy costs, as per Voyager? Well, I think we can guess that transporters take a lot of energy, and if replicators are mini-transporters, they will also use a lot of energy. A ship, especially one traveling nearly constantly in a cruising state, won’t be using its transporters a lot. But replicators would be used every time someone gets a bit peckish, which in a crew of 75 or so, would be hundreds of times a day (especially those Bolians.) That could be quite a bit of energy used. And I don’t know if it was because of fuel concerns specifically; I’m not sure it was specifically stated to be so, or if you could headcanon it to be that the constant use of the energy system by replicators would wear them out: not a problem in friendly space, or anywhere near friendly space, where you could get spare parts, but definitely a problem when you’re decades from home; at any rate, it stops being a thing by the third or fourth season, so whatever.

So, how about that transporter then? Is it converting people and things to energy, then back to matter again? I don’t think so. Like I said above, this may have been explicitly stated at one point, but the idea is contradicted several times. First, there is the mention of a ‘matter stream’. What would a matter stream be but…matter? Second, you still have that problem of having tons and tons of energy moving about. What happens when the transporter fails to turn someone back to matter, and all that energy (50-150 times the energy of that 1kg meal) gets released on the transporter pad, or in that park? We already know that transporters are not 100% reliable – these things mess up often enough that scaredycats like Barkley use them as little as possible (probably like a .00001% failure rate – but do you want to be that person that becomes a blob being for a few seconds while dying an excruciating death?).

And, if it were so, you would have no problems with energy or weapons. Why use torpedoes when you can just beam some energy (former matter) into or near the opposing ships? Boarding parties got you down? Just beam them back to their own ships, but forget to make them back into matter – it’s only a 1-2 gigaton boom. Why keep specialized fuel when you can just do the same to your own generator (just not a whole person…hopefully). Since they never do this, and they do have fuel for their ships (antimatter fuel specifically, and supposedly the opposed matter for it), and that this particular issue never even comes up as a possibility of failure, seems to suggest that the transporter does not turn you into energy to hurl you through the aether.

So what then? Well, let’s go look back at that ‘matter stream’ thing. The transporter has been described as something along the lines of “tearing all your particles apart, throwing them across space, and then putting them back together again”. I don’t know if such a thing has ever been said on the show, but it’s certainly the idea of the transporter. So, why add a bunch of matter-energy stuff to that? Just because it sounds more sciencey and impressive? You know what sounds even more impressive? Saying the transporter squishes and tears you into a bazillion pieces, moves you through 16-dimensional space, and then makes you come back together again, just as it found you (not really, because it takes your diseases out (sometimes), turns on the safety for your gun, etc., but close enough for space-government work). And it does it at a distance, not needing the actual physical transporter device to be anywhere near you at either end (I figure the transporter pad has to be somewhere in the 16-dimensional path, though; otherwise, why have it in the first place?).

A final aside: the transporter, contrary to the comic at the top, actually proves you don’t die, and that you have a soul, of sorts. This may seem weird, since Star Trek is supposed to be this materialist humanist utopia, without a religion in sight (at least on Earth). Well, that’s another one of those shallow explanations. If you have gods and energy beings and telepaths and espers and all that, why not souls? And one episode of DS9 proved that there are indeed souls, again, of a sort. In the episode “Our Man Bashir,” most of the main cast is involved in a transporter accident, which leaves the ‘putting-together’ part of the transporter inoperable. But our heroes are fine, since the data needed to put them back together is stored in the computer. Well, sorta, since I guess it’s kinda like RAM, and it only saves just long enough to get used, or something like that, so the patterns have to be saved in other parts of the station’s computers, including the holodeck. The relevant thing here is that the neural patterns and the physical patterns are separate.

Now, if you were a materialist, you’d say that one’s neural patterns would just be based on chemical and physical reactions in the brain; these ‘neural patterns’ are just merely a part of the physical pattern. But that’s obviously not the case here. In fact, the holodeck computer could only hold the physical pattern (which involved all the processes of life – which are apparently too complicated for a replicator to recreate, mind). Which means the neural patterns are waaaaay more complicated than all the quantum stuff involved in a person’s body. But if your neural patterns are merely part of your physical body, they can’t, by definition, be more complicated than the body, since they are merely a part of the complication. Thus, those neural patterns are something else entirely. One could very well call that the soul. (Though it’s obvious that it’s not a Christian understanding of the concept (such as there is a particular ‘Christian’ understanding of the soul), so that’s fine for fedora-tippers like Roddenberry and friends.) This goes along with the idea of the Katra: the Vulcan soul, which can apparently be stored in jars.

Replaying Games

Kim of Later Levels made a post a few days ago (that I just got to reading yesterday) about immediately replaying games. They were mostly talking about what would induce one to replay games, but the question was asked: do you ever replay games immediately after playing them?

For me, the answer is yes, I’ve done that before more than once. But that doesn’t make for much of a blog post (commenting on days old posts seems pretty useless, at least to me). So I got to thinking: which games have I done this with? What do they have in common? Why play them over again so soon, when I always have a backlog of other games to get to (indeed, I often will not finish a game, to move on to the next new game!)?

So, these are some/most of the games that I remember giving another go right after finishing them the first time:

  • Fallout: New Vegas
  • Pokemon Blue/Red
  • Gothic 3
  • Deus Ex
  • Morrowind
  • Oblivion
  • Skyrim
  • Star Trek Online (going to count making a new character as starting over)

Looking on it, all of these have this in common: they have different possible play styles that you can choose, some right from the beginning. Even if they have the same overall story, or even the same exact story experience, every time, the way you interact with the game can be different each time. Also, the games were very compelling for one reason or another, that kept me wanting more. Sometimes you can get a completely different story, so it’s like a sequel or add-on instead of the same game; but in the end, a game’s a game, and play matters: playing ranged one time, and melee the next, can create almost a completely new game.

But story is also important, at least the story in my head. In STO, the story for a faction character is exactly the same every single time you do it (ignoring missions that have been modified or removed), but for me, each character’s story is different. While there is more possible variation in a TES game, or Fallout, the story beats, the dialog choices, the quests and missions, they’re all the same every time you play the same faction; but I can fill in the blanks, fill in motivation and reactions and stuff. But I guess that’s its own sort of game, too.