News services in the Pact Worlds

News Corp (Abadar subsidiary)
News Corp is the dominant news network in the Pact Worlds system. It provides system wide coverage with 24-7 vidfeeds, a wide variety of studio shows and a DriftNet Video-to-Text (V2T)* service for the bandwidth challenged. Based out of large offices in the Drifter’s End district of the Ring on Absalom Station; this subsidiary corporation has hundreds of staff based here and spread across the major planets of the system with small offices in the capital cities. News corp is accepted as the defacto channel to follow for news for many of the system’s citizens and is considered to be trustworthy and neutral by most.

*With the advent of extra-system travel and the DriftNet text-only network, AI controlled Video-to-Text services were introduced by A*Media and other companies to auto transcribe, and describe in words, the audio and visual content from normal video transmissions. Subscribers can choose from a couple of detail levels (full, medium or terse) to fit their needs and available connectivity.

Pact News Network
A SFS funded news network with unbiased (from a planet view-point perspective), but ‘peace-positive’ programming and editorial bias. It features a variety of different programs and reporters that operate under the umbrella of this network. This network has its headquarters in Drifter’s End near the Lorespire Complex (and not so far from News Corp), but it is a much smaller company than its commercial neighbour and has few employees based on other planets. The most popular journalist/presenters on the network include:
-Jazza, a Skittermander reporter who travels anywhere and everywhere to chase the biggest stories in the system – often getting interviews with stars and important political figures due to the fact he won’t take no for an answer! His news reports regularly top the network’s ratings.
-Barnelius, a contemplative presenter of the Pact Insights news analysis stream – on which he dissects events for deeper meanings and asks guests the important questions everyone wants to know.

Spikecast
A community run DriftNet news service based out of Absalom station’s Spike. It features a changing cast of Infosphere-only reporters who only identify by their Infosphere aliases. The reporting is usually accurate and investigative in nature, more-or-less balanced but with a slight anti-corporate tone. Newscast is consumed by a majority of subscribers as a weekly digest, but the most avid followers opt to receive shorter updates on news as they appear onto the network. The service’s output is text only and mostly delivered via the Infosphere or DriftNet messages.

AfterLife
An Eoxian broadcast video network with a news component that focuses heavily on Eox and features a lot of long-form interview and “life after death” lifestyle-oriented programming. News coverage of other planets is brief unless there are Elebrians involved.

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Posted in Starfinder, TTRPG | Leave a comment

Language translation options in #Starfinder

This post is a creative piece offering some ideas for the Starfinder roleplaying game. Any resemblance to real life entities are purely coincidental. Please feel free to use this content in your own campaign or discuss or expand on these ideas in the comments.

The Starfinder system and setting are replete with many different species and languages. Interspecies communication is not as instant or automatic as it is in some science fiction settings such as Star Trek. Characters can learn specific alien languages but this takes time and effort. Unless your character is an experienced xenoseeker with the ability to improvise communication in unlearned languages, what can they do to smooth lost in translation difficulties?

The Tetrad certified translator is a datapad sized device that can construct a basic lexicon in a language, if given enough spoken input. It’s pretty limited compared to Star Trek’s universal translator technology as it only covers basic short phrases or commands. The Witchwyrd race behind this technology are a rather  advanced species compared to most of the settings major races so this is probably the best there is in portable translation technology.

Magic is an alternative to technology for solving many issues in the Starfinder universe. Technomancers can cast the 1st level spell Comprehend Languages. Mystics meanwhile can cast the longer-duration Share Language spell. In either case the spell is infallible to a point in terms of allowing comprehension or communication, but it uses up precious magical resources and not all groups of adventurers will have either class available. A few magical items could also be used as a temporary solution to language difficulties, notably the Serum of Enhancement, Diplomat which gives for one hour the ability to speak and understand a language heard within the last ten minutes before imbibing the magical liquid.

Beyond these technological and magical solutions for specific classes or items, I present below some different services that adventurers in the Pact Worlds might contact to answer their translation needs:

Tetrad Translate, Infosphere
Within the Pact Worlds system a popular means for translating simpler texts is via the Tetrad Translate Infosphere service. Texts can be entered and documents uploaded for translation between two specified languages. This limited service is provided free of charge for all major Pact World system languages though the service does not deal well with technical vocabulary or complex language constructions. Tetrad certified translator datapads are portable and do not require an Infosphere connection to operate, hence this service does not directly compete with the sale of those hand-held devices.

Translation time varies depending on the length of the text and the service load at the time of submission. The service is operated out of an Absalom Station Infosphere address so normal transmission delays for users outside of the station’s Infosphere apply. Certain worlds block access to the service partially or in full, Eox being the most notable example. Also given the transmission time, bandwidth issues and distrust of any centralised service, few in the Diaspora would use the service if any local alternative is available.

The service is relatively new and opinions vary greatly as to why the mysterious Tetrad corporation would be offering it freely to Pact World citizens. No paid-for improved service exists as yet and Witchwyrd representatives do not discuss it with outsiders. On the message boards of Absalom Station computer experts discuss the impressive security measures of the system, it appears as unhackable as the DriftNet. A good many citizens on major Pact Worlds use the service regularly, but these same experts are now questioning the implications of handing over large quantities of data to an unknown service.

Tempered Interpreters, the Idari
Offering more than a simple translation service, this kasatha collective provide interpreting services to clients within the Pact Worlds who require interpreters or whisper translation services. One of their aesthetic kasatha employees can be hired based on the language pair or trio required by the client for a set daily fee to act as a personal interpreter for the duration of the contract. All employees of the collective are tempered pilgrims, the organisation actively recruits kasathas that have focused on learning languages and the associated cultural nuances whilst on their year-long voyage of self-discovery. The collective is famous among Pact World businesses for the discretion and professionalism of their linguists. The rather stiff fees and long list of stipulations about working conditions and safety guarantees the collective requires on behalf of its interpreters are equally well-known. Fees vary depending on the raritry of the languages involved but the basic charge for a tempered interpreter is 200 credits per day, plus agreed expenses and overtime fees. Companies that balk at paying such fees are reminded by the collective that spells and machine translation do not offer the cultural understanding that underpins their interpreters’ expertise.

AbadarCorp Linguistic Bureau, Absalom Station
Covering the middle ground between the executive service provided by the Tempered Interpreters and the rather basic translations of the Tetrad free service is the Linguistic Bureau of AbadarCorp. Based out of the corporate headquarters on Absalom Station this service provides utilitarian translations for citizens and companies alike. The company offers two major products based on the budget of the client. For the standard service tier, secular workers provide typed translations via Infosphere or DriftNet message for a fee of 2 credits per 100 words (rounded up to the nearest 100). Only major Pact World languages are available for this service and the translations are pretty literal. Delivery times vary but next day delivery is standard, with a “4 hour express service” possible for 4 credits per 100 words.

The ‘miracle’ tier service is provided by a priest who uses magic to divine the translation of the particular text. The cost is 125 credits per 1000 words of text. Negotiable bulk discounts are available on a per contract basis depending on the total length. These translations are generally considered to be reliable and rather good at delivering more nuanced meaning.

This post is based on entries in the Starfinder Core and the Pact Worlds rulebooks, please see these source for more details on specific locations or aspects of the Starfinder setting.

Posted in Starfinder, TTRPG

Spring break

I’m back from a wonderful holiday and have settled rather too quickly back into reality / routine. Spring is in the air although the cheer among colleagues about the ‘warmth in the air’ rings hollow when you’ve come back from somewhere in full tropical summer to temperatures struggling to reach double digits. Regardless, as our garden bursts into new life it is a time of year for change and renewal.

In that vein I have come to the difficult decision to put this MMORPG blog on indefinite pause, it’s too soon to say I’ll stop writing entirely but I’d rather be decisive about this than let it dwindle on an ever decreasing schedule. I’ve almost given up on this writing hobby several times over the years but now I feel like I have to commit more wholeheartedly to other things: namely my language learning efforts. Blogging isn’t that huge a commitment, but all the reading, thinking and writing still adds up. The time I spend every day reading about MMO gaming I really should be investing in learning vocabulary. I’m at a stage with learning Japanese where my biggest hurdle is not keeping up with learning the vocab from class, so I need to spend a lot more breakfast times, lunch breaks and evenings revising and memorising the words and their written forms.

After just over eight years of mostly continuous blogging on MMORPGs I feel its time to take a break and invest that energy elsewhere. I may still do a proper review post of the last eight years of blogging at some point, but that would be a bigger undertaking than I have time for just now. In any case a big thank you to all the readers and commenters who have followed the blog over these years! Thanks also to all the inspiring MMO bloggers who have kept me engaged in this area for so long!

Posted in MMORPG | 7 Comments

Disconnected afk

As you read this I will be flying to Malaysia for a two-week cruise break, quite the grand adventure that came as a rather surprise option last-minute. Most of my holidays in recent years have been within European Union countries; i.e. the Mediterranean or Canary Islands. My mobile network allows me to use my unlimited data allowance abroad almost anywhere in the region without incurring any charges for data. That has meant on  most of my recent holidays I was just as ‘connected’ as if I were at home.

I suppose it’s fairly normal these days to be on the phone a lot on holiday, I have noticed, at least unconsciously, others doing the same. I have to think back to our honeymoon in the Caribbean for a holiday where I wasn’t able to check my blogroll every morning or look on social media.

My mobile network is unusual in having had for years now a deal to allow this free roaming of data and other services, yes the EU mandates no roaming charges these days anyway, but this contract is good in a lot of countries in the Americas, Asia and beyond. It just so happens that all but one of the ports we’re visiting are in countries not on that extensive list.

It’s going to be a relief actually, work has been intense of late, and I feel this holiday is rather overdue. I’m taking actual paper books to read, and a notepad and pens to do some creative rpg writing while away. Otherwise I expect to be fully disconnected from blogging and the digital world – so I’ll see you all in mid-April! Happy gaming!

Posted in MMORPG

A different experience of nostalgia

Bhagpuss has a post ruminating on attracting old players back to MMORPGs; while it’s mostly focused on the particular challenges facing Guild Wars 2 in this regard, there’s some discussion of other games in the genre also. It made me start thinking of my early time and somewhat unusual experience of these nostalgia trip servers.

I came to the genre later than many: I started World of Warcraft in early 2007, but then didn’t start branching out into other MMOs until 2009 through 2011. In most of those early games except WoW (e.g. Warhammer Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online), I joined an already elder game where the vast majority of the player base were at the level cap or near it. The perennial problem of subscription MMOs especially, new players had a very sub-optimal experience since you’d only get to group up with veterans racing new alt characters to the cap for the most part. It meant zones were very, very quiet for the most part and any mandatory-group content was nigh on impossible to complete without sympathetic guild-mates.

Bree Fields circa 2009

In the next wave of MMORPGs that followed I did get to start with the masses (e.g. Rift, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars the Old Republic), so this post isn’t just some tale of woe. However, nostalgia for those earlier games doesn’t work so well for me as it wasn’t that great an experience. In the case of DDO and LOTRO, I’ve already experienced a fresh start when they re-launched as free to play games, so I’ve had all the server reboot excitement I could care for. With Everquest 2 I started on the first free to play server, Freeport, and had a very positive experience as a result of starting that game. Naturally I was soon left for dust by the bulk of the player base because I do not rush in any game. Still, I do not feel that motivated by nostalgia in EQ2 because I do not have the older memories to tap into that this kind of marketing relies on.

First steps on Freeport

I’m about to be afk for some time and that has sapped my motivation for levelling on Kaladim, I could have joined a guild, but was it worth it for barely over a week of sporadic playing sessions? I’ve been so busy socially and in other games since my last EQ2 post that my character has only advanced one level (to 11). Instead I was tempted back to play some more of the Planes of Magic timeline and in-fact finished that for the first time Sunday morning. It feels very satisfying to have completed an expansion for the first time in a while, and has motivated me to want to go back and complete other stories that I’ve left unfinished – Shadowknight is a much better solo class for me, personally.

Serious events

Nostalgia servers do offer the one attraction of busy starter zones, I do like to know that I’m playing an MMORPG by the presence of other player characters running around. Yes, competition for mobs or harvesting nodes or whatever can be occasionally annoying, but on balance I’d rather that than my early MMO experiences of empty, monster-crammed zones. So if friends end up in WoW Classic this summer I may well join them at least for a time. For the most part though I want to keep pushing onwards with my main characters in any game, there’s still so much to do on the live services.

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG, World of Warcraft

WoW welcome back weekend

This weekend was a welcome back weekend in World of Warcraft. It was a pretty busy weekend for us socially so we didn’t actually get that much done, but since I’m not Token-subbed at the moment it allowed me to join my husband in progressing some of the 8.1.5 main story. It gave us a chance to do some emissaries for gold as well as a warm-up to being back in the game.

Blizzard it seems hasn’t listened to complaints about locking story behind dungeons, for the Horde side we had two raid-only quests to complete, one for the Vol’jin story and another for the war campaign. Apparently our Alliance mains won’t have to do the raid at all for the equivalent story updates; at this stage in the expansion the story is so Horde-focused we decided to play those characters as the priority.

I guess I should be thankful that the LFR difficulty exists now to allow progress past a raid without having to invest a lot of time and effort in finding a group. It also means for a non-raider you can complete the quest step without a huge amount of stress or mechanic-learning preparations. LFR also allows you to queue for a specific ‘wing’ of the raid – a big time saver over doing a whole 9-boss raid for one quest: in this case we needed to do the last third of Battle of Dazar’alor to ‘kill’ Jaina Proudmore.

I’d be lying if I said it was a particularly enjoyable experience.  I went in with my husband and another guild mate; my husband has raided for years now and knew all the strategies for this raid. Still having him keeping us alive doesn’t prevent the other players from slowing things down. Things proceeded pretty well until the Blockade boss: there is a raid-wipe mechanic if the elemental boss at the end is not defeated in time. One wipe wasn’t that much of a delay, though you do have to repeat the fights on the boats as well.

It was the final boss of the raid, unsurprisingly, that caused the group some issues. Mainly because a hunter twice triggered Blood Lust from a pet way too early in the fight and that  prevented us from using the ability to prevent a wipe when Jaina tries to freeze everyone later on. That wasted quite a lot of time and soured the mood in the raid chat as well. Thankfully we got her down on the third try. I was getting tired of dodging all the bad stuff while trying to heal  (there is so much movement in WoW raiding), it makes me wish for a decent move ability. I doubt I’ll ever want to raid in this game, but if I were to I’d want to have my monk levelled for it so I could roll around.

We’ll try and get some dungeon runs in later this evening for a dose of more relaxed small group fun. If only Blizzard would make a 5-person version of the raids, I’d be a lot happier with these types of story-progression road-blocks.

Posted in MMORPG, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment

Downtime compensation #DDO #LOTRO

A brief article over at MassivelyOP informed me that some in-game compensation awards for Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online are available for all players up until the 30th April. Free stuff is always nice, even if I wasn’t personally inconvenienced. I do intend to return to Dungeons & Dragons Online when the Sharn module comes around and I play LOTRO on and off as a side MMO so I keep both games loaded and patched on my PC normally.

In LOTRO the reward package had some currency and a load of dyes. I logged in my usual low-level Loremaster that I am collecting login rewards on when I do log in, thankfully the currency is account level so I didn’t end up with end-game currencies bound to a low-level alt.

Figments of Splendour are account level

I’ve not played enough of the current end-game content to know what these figments are used for, but will happily check it out next time I’m in Middle Earth.

In Dungeons & Dragons Online the same code gave a set of XP potions and a Raider’s Reward Box.

The latter gives free choice of one high level sentient weapon. For my lowly level 8 Artificer this is a rather remote but awesome looking upgrade. For now I’ve kept the box unopened as by the time my character reaches that level I may have need of something else instead; the box can sit in his bank.

If you play either MMORPG even irregularly, go get the rewards while you can!

Posted in DDO, LotRO, MMORPG | 1 Comment