Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Feature 2013-01-25

Hello lovely space Larpers!

I have one of those weeks here again when I have almost too much goodies for you!
We have The Celestra Tech here today! They have given us super exiting videos and some explanatory text. All of us have been itching to show you guys this! And since I saw that Fredrik promised a write up on the simulation test he attended last sunday I have forced him to do just that!

But first I have to mention the absolutely awesome "First Briefing Letter" that went out to all our participants yesterday. You can check it out here. Or just go to the front page and get the printable version. Did I say it was awesome? It is awesome!

And then some pushing for next week! Cecilia is going to talk at the nerd café at tekniska museét in Stockholm on Wednesday we will put it out next friday but if you have the time, and speak swedish, you can watch it live online here or if you are in stockholm check out the facebook event. 

So now I hand you over to the Celestra Tech Team and Fredrik for a ride into the world of technology.

Okey, time for some insight into the technological side of The Monitor Celestra. We know that some of you have been worried about this so hopefully this will ease some of your worries!

Currently, all things tech move along quite nicely - software development on all consoles apart from one has been finished, world simulation engine is done (along with formal tests to make sure it all works as expected!) and the Tech team is currently focused on hardware integration and gameplay testing. All hardware test runs and integrations have been finished, so right now it’s building hardware and hooking it up to software. Therefore, I have some goodies for you from the Tech department - here’s a running console, along with hardware integration:

Apart from the hardware focus, there’s a lot of gameplay testing going on. Is this fun? Does this take the correct amount of time? If Sensor discovers a torpedo here, how long time should it take before countermeasures have to be launched? It’s a lot of moving parts, and we want to make sure it all both runs smoothly, and is fun playing with.

To make sure you get in the right groove, we’ve spent quite some time on designing the systems to look real, to look smooth and to look like BSG proper but with the true Tauron feel. The colors run in the brown-yellow-red spectrum, with the same interaction and look/feel you’ve been seeing in the series. See below for some of the real interfaces you’ll be working:

Also, as I said, Fredrik Promised to do a writeup on the experience of the Simulation test. So i made him keep the promise.

Let me start by dispelling some illusions some of you might have. If you thought the simulator would be something like this,
you're slightly mistaken, anyone with a system like that had their computers eaten by malicious cylon AI as soon as the war started. The odds are that their frozen corpses are orbiting one of the destroyed colonies.
What we will be doing is more like this,
Without Sean Connery looking badass on the bridge.
So we ran a couple of scenarios using Sensor 1 and Helm. My station became the big white paper where we plotted and kept track of our progress through space. On our first run we happily set off at jolly speed towards our destination, ran into some signatures on the sensor. messed up the angles, practically bumped into cylons and got utterly destroyed by the toasters.
This old school navigation clearly demanded some old school tools. Armed with a protractor, ruler, stopwatch, and calculator - we tried again. And again. And again. We soon learned that caution was our friend. Keeping track of position by counting seconds with the stopwatch (including acceleration/deceleration time and turning speed of the ship) is a challenge in itself under the best of circumstances unless you happen to be an expert in dead reckoning. But, as long as you travel in a straight line through empty space you feel pretty confident.
Suddenly Sensor reports a foreign signature at 15 degrees bearing. Captain orders full stop. I look at the stopwatch to account for distance traveled during the 20 or so seconds while Celestra slowly comes to a halt. While orders are being executed, a second signature appears at 330 degrees. We get bearings on the signatures and I begin to draw lines on the paper. The signatures do not appear to be moving... unless they are moving straight toward or away from us. We do a scan of one of the objects and a minute later it’s identified as a cylon sensor buoy ( followed by a sigh of relief from everyone on the bridge - not a torpedo!). Since both signatures have the same wideband signature, it is concluded that they are most likely of the same type.
Captain tags them Alpha and Beta then decide to try and move around them. After giving orders to turn the ship 90 degrees and move forward at 1/4 speed, Sensor see the signatures move with the turning of the ship. We travel for a couple of minutes before Sensor reports a new signature, this time dead ahead. Captain orders full stop. Once again, the contacts share the same sensor reading with the two previous contacts. This area seems to be a labyrinth. However, since we have moved - we are now in a position to triangulate the two first signatures. After some sensor readings and some shouting and confirming of angles their exact positions are pinpointed on the map. (Progress!!!)
We continue like this and find more buoys but in the end we manage to plot a course through without alerting the cylons. Since this simulation did not include weapon systems, countermeasures or FTL - if we alert them to our presence there will be raiders perforating our hull within minutes. All of this might seem confusing but you get the hang of it after a while.Afterwards I was euphoric and exhausted. I mean, I took part in a complex computer simulation with only pen & paper. I had to derive and present "the big picture" to the Captain from numbers being handed to me, literally drawing my own graphical interface as we went along. Isn't that pretty badass?
Now you might be thinking to yourself "No graphics? Pen & paper?" and be all sad panda. Don't worry - The helm and sensor stations look pretty awesome, the level of detail and realism in these systems are stunning. Spend enough time at the Sensor station and you'll learn to distinguish different objects just by the signature they make, just like the old WW2 hydrophone operators could identify ships by the sound of their engines or the beat of their screws.
Even though the math itself is simple enough, doing it in real time and under pressure is a completely different story. Same with Sensor. when you have 5 signatures moving on the rim of a circle as the ship is turning and moving, can you keep track of which one is which. and when there's suddenly 6. which one is the new one? That signature - was that a colonial transponder or an incoming torpedo?
Remember, the Celestra is not a battlestar. The Galactica might go in guns blazing and Vipers launching slugging it out but - for all intents and purposes - the Celestra is a stealth ninja sneaking up behind the toasters to ram a nuke up their exhaust pipe at point blank range then jump away before the blast goes off. Cloak & dagger is the name of the game. And this requires steel nerves.
Have you got what it takes?

That's all folks, See you next week!

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