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4th April 2012: Captain Vesso & His Boffs

Star Trek Online is pretty much in last chance saloon right now because of all its annoying bugs and the ludicrously boring missions I keep getting lumbered with. Still, the game does have something going for it that no other MMO does, and that is the quite customisable crew of your starship. In addition to all the skills and gear you can kit them out with, you can also give them all their own little biographies. As I can't resist the temptation to develop characters and make up little stories, these are the ones I've made up for mine:

Macan

Macan Vesso
Balseph, born in 2376. Most Balseph are more than content to remain on their home planet, but Macan's parents were travellers, looking to learn more about the galaxy and the other species that inhabit it, a passion their child inherited. Macan was not successful in his first application to Starfleet, but his scores were high enough that he was allowed a second chance the following year, and he made sure he did not fail again. From then on, he aced every exam Starfleet threw at him, and even pursued extra tutoring from older, more experienced students. He has developed into a very smart and considerate member of Starfleet. Some might say he is too quiet and introverted to be a captain, but he is aware of his weaknesses, and his very clever choice of officers has almost negated these completely. With his ship and crew, Macan is proving himself a great success.
He is the captain.

Meiden

Meiden
Andorian, born in 2377. Meiden has literally known Macan all her life. Her parents were friends with his, due to them serving on a ship that Macan's parents were long-term passengers on. It is indeed due to Meiden's parents that Macan could even join Starfleet, as his race the Balseph is not part of the Federation. The pair have always been great friends, playing together as kids, and studying at the Academy together. Macan was surprised when he was offered a command before her, but asking her to be his first officer was a blindingly obvious choice, an offer she quite joyously accepted. Not only is she very smart and a brave soldier, she also interacts with the crew much more than the quieter Macan. The captain knows very well that most of his success has been down to her support and friendship, and firmly believes she has it in her to be a far better captain than he.
She is the first officer and the chief tactical officer.

Ja'nalora

Ja'nalora Andera
Trill, born in 2383. Ja'nalora grew up never knowing her mother, who passed away very soon after she was born. She was an extremely shy child, and sometimes felt a little overshadowed by her more popular and confident half sister. She instead found solace in study, which helped her to almost breeze through her basic Academy training, and helped immensely as she pursued her scientific studies. During this time, she found herself becoming quite popular as she was always willing to help her fellow students. This helped her come out of her shell somewhat and she found more self confidence. She is now a very friendly, confident, trustworthy and competent adult, crew member and friend.
She is the second officer and the chief science officer.

Karynna

Karynna Andera
Half-Trill, born in 2385. She is Ja'nalora's half sister, as they share the same father. When they were growing up, she proved to be much more confident and outgoing than her older sister, but she also displayed a brasher, cockier attitude. She has changed little over the years, and in the very rare occurence that tension develops between two officers, it's a sure thing that Karynna is one of them. Despite her attitude, she is fiercely loyal and protective of her crew mates, especially her sister and the captain. Her combat training is extensive, and she is one of best markswomen in Starfleet. With her cockiness and stubbornness comes a whole cargo bay full of bravery, and she is always, without question, the first into dangerous situations in her attempts to keep everyone else safe.
She is the security chief.

Nine

Nine Of Thirty Four
Human, born Peta Sailin in 2374. While at Starfleet Academy, she met Macan, who was in his first year, and occasionally helped tutor him. She was assimilated by the Borg in 2398 at the age of 24 when her ship was on a deep space survey mission. Macan, who was an ensign at the time, took the news badly, as he had been quite enamoured with her. She spent 10 years as part of the collective, until she was liberated by Macan and his crew during one of their first missions in the U.S.S. Codan, helping to fight off a Borg incursion in the Sirius sector. Her extraordinarily technical brain has only been enhanced by her Borg implants, and she excels at fabrication and construction. Intellectually her potential as an officer is plain to see, and she is now working on finding her full human side again. There is no doubt that Macan is extremely relieved she is once more free and safe.
She is the chief engineering officer.

Azra

Azra Neema
Klingon, born 2385. Azra is not your typical Klingon. Despite being six and a half feet tall and an extremely powerful and competent combatant, she would much rather exercise her mental muscles than her physical ones. She is an exceptional scientist, and though she does not share the typical warrior ways of many Klingons, she still feels torn as the current war rages on, desiring peace more than any other member of the crew. Yet her loyalty to the Federation, and Captain Vesso in particular, is not and has never been in question. The current state of affairs only strengthens her desire to see the war end as soon as possible, and she will do whatever is necessary to make it so.
She is a science officer.

Vizna

Vizna
Caitian, born 2388. Though well aware she is physically able, she has always considered herself somewhat behind her peers when taking intellect into consideration. So surprised hardly describes the emotion Vizna felt when approached by Macan to join his crew, knowing as she did just how smart his other officers were. But Macan could see her true strengths - her loyalty, physical prowess and compassion - and she has not disappointed him. Around her friends and allies, she is a very sweet, gentle being, utterly devoid of any kind of negative emotion or aggression. In combat, she is entirely different person all together. An expert hand to hand fighter, she rarely ever uses ranged weapons. Instead, she launches herself hissing and snarling at her foes with fangs bared, striking out at them with blinding speed, and relying on her incredible agility to keep herself free from harm. Her crew mates always feel safer going in to dangerous situations when she is present.
She is a security officer.

Jade

Mila "Jade" Jenlo
Unknown species and birth date. The baby Mila was discovered by Federation explorers drifting in a stasis pod in 2391. Though physically no more than a year old, she could have been born decades or even centuries before. Her birth race and planet of origin have yet to be discovered. She was raised on Earth, where she gained the rather unimaginative nickname "Jade", which she nevertheless is quite fond of. She enlisted at Starfleet Academy where her rapid cognitive functioning helped her to excel, before being handpicked by Macan Vesso to be part of his crew. She has become one of Macan's integral officers despite her youth, due to her razor-sharp mind, friendliness and her sense of humour. At just 4'6" tall, she does not look particularly threatening, but many opponents have already learned this is not the case.
She is the chief of operations.

26th March 2012: STO Bugs In Pictures

The last time I played Star Trek Online I hit level 40 which is the first of 3 Admiral ranks. This is good, as I also got my next new ship, the U.S.S. Kreethen.

However, frustrating things have been happening on this game. On several away missions I've lost my ability to attack or use any items or skills. So I've had to go through the missions luring enemies into traps that I'd set up using the rest of my away team. Also, I teamed up with Mr. Gallear for a story episode, and when we got to the end it completed the mission for me but not for him, so he had to go and do it all again. Really, that game could be very good, but there are more bugs in it than a Microsoft OS.

The worst bug we've had was on one mission where our away team members and NPC enemies kept disappearing under the ground, stopping our away team members from acting but still allowing the NPCs to shoot us.

Here are some images of some of the weird crap that's been happening:

The 90 degree display bug strikes again

The 90 degree display bug strikes again

Mr. Gallear's away team give him a big hug

Mr. Gallear's away team give him a big hug

An NPC that has sunk into the ground shoots Macan

An NPC that has sunk into the ground shoots Macan

Bridge Officer asses don't even touch the chairs

Bridge Officer asses don't even touch the chairs

Graphics which are supposed to look like this...

Graphics which are supposed to look like this...

...keep flickering to look like this

...keep flickering to look like this

With all this weird stuff going on, I'm starting to wonder whether all their patches actually do anything, and whether the game is even worth continuing with.

25th March 2012: The Egg With The Boxing Gloves

So now I've got my emulator running, there are many old games I can finally go back and finish that I never managed as a kid. Top of this list was Fantasy World Dizzy, which I played many times on both Spectrum and Amiga. As far as I recall, my neighbour managed to get as far as rescuing Daisy, but none of us could ever rescue her and get all the coins to finish the game properly.
Of course, using the emulator with its ability to save the state of the game, this was a very small challenge, but still one I felt I had to accomplish. While playing it, I also made the following map:

Fantasy World Dizzy Map

Fantasy World Dizzy Map

I did have a tiny problem with the sound while running this on the emulator, as it kept crackling, but I just turned off the noise and slammed on the tunes instead.
So that's one more down, and on to the next...

23rd March 2012: Revisiting Classics

A few days ago I discovered the existence of GOG, which offers old PC games that are usable on current Windows. Of course, as soon as I saw the old Worms game on there I had to have it. I wrongly assumed though that the software had been tweaked so that it would install and run on current Windows, but instead the game is just as it was and is bundled with something called DOSBox that allows you to run it. I could have just downloaded DOSBox for free myself, as I'm pretty sure my brother's original Worms is in the loft somewhere, but oh well.
Worms was one of the first games we ever had for our first PC back when I started college in '95, and it was by far our favourite. My bro, my mates and I spent many a Saturday afternoon blowing each other's worms to pieces in a variety of silly ways, all the time trying to counter my mate Spud's dark side tactics!

Worms is a fairly customisable game, with the ability to add your own maps and sound effects. Back in the 90s we didn't have the capability to make our own speech, but I did add a couple of my own maps with (AFAIR) fairly little trouble. So, imagine my surprise recently when I found it very difficult to make my own maps, when I assumed it would be a doddle with newer software. Damn you Photoshop. Gimp is supposed to work though, so maybe I'll have to download that and give it a try. And when I can get around to it, I'm sure I'll be able to make my own speech sets with the contraptions that I now have available.
So far, I've only got around to entering a single team - based on the LLAP-Goch classic, "The Adventures Of Detective Cronkshonk", which I have been using to beat up on the Take That team.

Nug Nug Worm sorts two enemies out

Nug Nug Worm sorts two enemies out

After giving Worms a couple of plays, the existence of DOSBox got me thinking about other, even older games that can be played with emulators. Long before I had a PC I had a good old Amiga 500, so I decided to see if I could get the WinUAE to work. I had originally attempted to use WinUAE about 10 years ago, but the only game I ever really got to work to any decent level was called North & South (which I bloody loved by the way). Upon downloading the latest version I discovered it to be a much better bit of kit than the old one I tried, and allows you to automatically configure it to match any of the old Amiga models. And so I went hunting for the game I easily spent the most time on as a kid...

A few minutes later I was listening to the menu music of the one and only Sensible Soccer, and having a massive nostalgic experience. After starting a match I soon remembered the style of its gameplay. Your players just can not control that ball, and the slightest change in direction will see the ball dribbling away from them. So to progress up the pitch, lots of quick passes are in order (which is not easy on keyboard). Nevertheless, I came out of my first Sensible Soccer match in over 15 years with a 5-3 win, with Sparky and Choccy doing the business as usual. Really does go to show you how easy the original Sensible Soccer was, but I loved it all the same.

Scrapping out a win

Scrapping out a win

I then thought about what had been my staple footy game before I discovered Sensible Soccer. World Cup 90 by Genias really was not the best footy game ever made, but boy was it cool to hear that awesome music again. I set up a match and got stuck in. The gameplay really could not be more different than Sensi. In this one the ball sticks to your feet like glue, but I can not find any pass option to speak of. So instead the tactic here is run and shoot like mad. Somehow, despite not knowing what the hell was going on, I managed a 2-0 win over Argentina, the second goal of which was a bicycle kick after their keeper saved the initial shot.

Really will have to grab my joystick out of the loft and give these old footy games a proper go, as it's very hard to control those little dudes with the arrow keys.
It's my intention to get stuck into other old classic games, as many seem to be available. Fantasy World Dizzy, Gobliins 2 and 7th Guest are all calling to me, and maybe I could find Skychase which was such a cheesy laugh (those little Amiga balls as missiles - hilarious).

Cheating Argies

Cheating Argies

Really not sure what my player is up to here

Really not sure what my player is up to here

He's gonna kick me in the face!

He's gonna kick me in the face!

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