Friday, 14 October 2016

Star Trek - The Devil Went Down to Pollux V

Written by Joe Pranevich

Star Trekkin’ across the universe...

“Space… the final frontier…” Star Trek: 25th Anniversary begins exactly where it should: with the famous introductory lines and a computer version of the opening theme. It’s a nice way to get us in the Star Trek mindset. The game itself opens on the bridge of the Enterprise just as Captain Kirk receives orders to participate in a readiness drill. Captain Patterson and the USS Republic are here to engage with us with mock combat. Uhura receives a message that our opponent is in position. Spock suggests that we raise our shields and arm our weapons. The game is on!

Or… it would be if I knew how to do either of these things. We start in a ship-to-ship combat mode and moving the mouse steers rather than allowing me to talk to any of my bridge crew and ask them to get ready for the battle. I pause the game and look through the manual. As I alluded to last week, there are a lot of keyboard shortcuts. In this case, we have to press “S” to raise shields and then “W” to arm the weapons. It’s a good thing this is a training fight because a firefight is not the right time to be learning the controls...

The real Captain Kirk didn’t have to memorize keyboard shortcuts.

What else can I do? I can talk to Uhura with “U”, but she doesn’t have much to add immediately. Spock can be reached either with a “T” or a “U”. The former allows Kirk to ask his science officer for advice. In this case, Spock advises that we should save photon torpedoes for close range attacks. The latter is the way that we (through Spock) access the library computer. It has a simple search interface; I look up “Patterson” and the game gives me details about his service record. That’s pretty cool! I’ll be sure to look up things as we go.

While we learn the controls, we are also being shot at. I go back to the manual and discover that the blue console just in front of the captain’s chair is the targeting computer. Our enemy is the green dot and all we need to do is turn in the appropriate direction to get him on the forward viewscreen. Now that weapons are armed, we can fire phasers with the left mouse button and photon torpedoes with the right. If you aren’t familiar with Star Trek weapons, think of “phasers” as super-lasers while “photon torpedoes” are explosive charges that we fire at the enemy. Phasers are a lot faster but torpedoes pack a punch. Before I work it all out, I get a message that our warp engines exploded and we’re all dead-- or we would be if this were an actual combat situation. We’re just simulation-dead.

Also, we’ve been eaten by grues.

The Admiral coordinating the skirmish comes into the viewscreen and chides Kirk for his performance, but there is no time for a re-do because he has a mission for us: travel to Pollux V to aid Federation colonists there. Aliens resembling demons have attacked the colonists near a mine. Our orders are to investigate and resolve the situation without harming the colonists. We also learn that they are part of some religious sect. While part of me wants to get on with the story, I restart the game. Let’s win the combat!

I won’t bore you with the details, but let it be said that I died again and again and again. This is partially my fault because I’m playing the game on a laptop with a touchpad rather than a 1990s era PC with a two-button mouse. Even so, the controls are pretty difficult. As the Republic flies circles around me and shoots, they are frequently able to take out individual ship systems like the viewscreen (it becomes gradually more filled with static until you can’t see at all) and weapons (they stop firing). The manual says that I can have Scotty repair individual systems by pressing “D” and selecting the system to repair, but it’s slow going and he doesn’t always get anything fixed before I blow up. It takes me around five deaths to figure out a big part of what I was doing wrong: I was a sitting duck! We have just been sitting dead in space and I have to set the ship’s speed by using the number keys: “1” is the slowest and “0” is the fastest, with the keys in the middle being graduations between. A backtick (“`”) moves the Enterprise in reverse. I gradually work out some strategy, make sure to turn away and run like hell when the enemy comes straight for us, and keep taking potshots whenever I get lucky enough. Targeting while moving is extra hard because you have to lead into the shots but eventually I get lucky enough and win. Hooray!

I’ll dive deeper into the flying controls into the next post or two. There are aspects that I haven’t figured out yet like the target analysis (“A”), emergency power (“E”), and a few others. This isn’t near the complexity of contemporary space combat sims like Wing Commander, but it’s an awful lot of stuff to think about for minigames. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it before long.

My, what pretty ribbons you have...

With the Republic defeated, I get a congratulatory message from the admiral then receive the same orders as before. Now what do we do? I check the manual and learn that we have to tell Chekhov to navigate to the correct star system. There isn’t a hotkey for talking to him and my mouse is still controlling the weapons. Once again, I crack the manual to see that I need to press the “tab” key to toggle modes and select the other crewmembers. With that, I can click on the navigator and get taken to a view where I have to select which star system to travel to. It’s copy protection!

Which of these is Pollux V?

The manual contains a matching star map except that the individual planets are labeled with a key. It’s easy to find the right one and select it. We get a brief cinematic of the Enterprise warping away and we’re in the Pollux system. I have Uhura hail the planet and High Prelate Robert Angiven appears on the screen and invites us to beam down down. But how do I do that? One more trip to the manual and I learn that we have to first put the ship in orbit, one of Sulu’s tasks. I select him and the right icon and we get another visual of the Enterprise pulling next to the planet. Using the transporter is in Kirk’s little menu and with just one more cutscene we are down on the surface. All this feels a bit mechanical, but I think I’m nearing the end of the things I need to constantly check the manual about.

It’s Transporter Chief Kyle! Hello!

We come in peace for all mankind.

Our landing party consists of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and “Ensign Everts”, a bright eyed redshirt that seems excited to meet the colonists and shares that this is his first time seeing snow. Way to humanize the cannon-fodder! For those of you less familiar with Star Trek, let’s just say that whenever you have a new character wearing a red shirt participating on a mission, it usually doesn’t end well for him or her. The planet is heavily forested and Dr. McCoy remarks that he wants to investigate the flora for medical purposes. Is that a hint?

I click around to get used to the interface. It’s not exactly what I expected, but it’s easy enough to figure out. Left clicking moves Kirk around and the other members of the landing party will follow. Right-clicking takes me to an image-based context menu where I can select to look at, talk to, or pick up things, plus access my inventory. I want to play some more before I talk about it in detail.

Who ya gonna call?

The next surprise is a welcome one: dialog options! When we talk to the prelate, Kirk can choose to greet him formally, act religious, or be rude. Kirk is a formal kind of guy so I take that approach. We learn that the colonists, all belonging to a religious sect, were mining ore in a nearby mountain. As they dug deeper, they found strange minerals but they kept digging anyway. Didn’t we read this in a fantasy novel? Brother Kandrey discovered a mysterious door but at that point the demons attacked and caused a cave-in. He’s still trapped in the collapsed mine and the demons are guarding the entrance. Angiven suggests that I talk to the other brothers in their chapel for more information.

They picked a very nice planet!

There are two buildings to choose from and I choose the wrong one initially. I find myself in a museum of sorts with an “ancient” computer and mining equipment, plus a case filled with minerals and bones. Is the joke here that they are technologically averse (similar to some real-life religions), but the technology is still more advanced than ours? I don’t have anything obvious I want to do with any of that stuff yet so I pick the other building instead.

Not sure how you could tell this is a chapel...

The other building looks more like a storage room than a chapel, but there are several colonists here to talk to. One of the colonists was injured in a battle with the demons and I have McCoy check him out. Unfortunately, he’s not doing okay: he has a serious infection that we cannot cure without “Hyper-Dytoxin” but the Enterprise is all out. Fortunately, Brother Stephen reveals that some berries near the mine entrance can be used to make the medicine, but we’ll only be able to get at them if we face down the demons. This seems a bit contrived, but we can roll with it.

Wait. You aren’t who I was expecting.

The mine entrance is only one screen north of where we beamed down but we don’t find what we expect: there no demons, only Klingons! They immediately kill my redshirt guy, but we are able to stub them quickly enough. McCoy remarks that they “don’t make Klingons like they used to”. Is that a hint? I restore back a bit and replay the scene, this time making sure that Kirk shoots first and we are able to survive with our ensign intact. The phasers in this game (as in the show) have two settings, green for stun red for kill. Since I want to interrogate our Klingon friends, I choose the stun setting.

With the enemies down, we realize that they are not real Klingons after all! In the melee, one of their hands fell off to reveal that they are really advanced robots, although perhaps not very reliable ones given that they are completely incapacitated by the stun setting. I pick up the severed hand because you never know when one of those will come in handy. We also find the miracle berries and head back to camp. Brother Stephen makes the antidote for us in his lab (the building that we explored first) and we deliver it to the injured colonist. With his life out of imminent danger, the rest of the settlers are willing to talk to us.

The first thing we discover is obvious in retrospect: not everyone saw the same demons. The humans all saw Christian-style demons, a Tellarite saw a wolf-shaped demon from his own culture, and we all saw Klingons. Everyone sees the things that they fear. We also show Brother Stephen the severed hand and he examines it in his lab. It has some micro-circuitry on the fingertips that he is able to repair for us. I think I can see where this is leading us.

Did anyone bring a bell, book, and some candles?

Our next stop is deeper in the mine, but I should clarify that at this point the game is very minimalist on screens. The cave-in is the next screen from the entrance, which is the next screen from the settlement, etc. We find the site of the cave-in but no additional “demons”. I have Spock scan it with his tricorder and he suggests that we can clear the rubble if we use our phasers and fire from the top down. We start at the top right, but that was a bad choice: a loose boulder on the left comes crashing down and kills our redshirt. I restore and make sure to blast that boulder first and he lives again! Is the conceit going to be that our security guards will just keep getting killed in amusing ways and we have to keep preventing it? Once the rubble is clear, we find a body with weak vital signs. I send in McCoy to patch him up and he’ll be fine.

The door conveniently has a handprint scanner. Raise your severed hand if you saw that coming! (Too soon?) I use the hand on the scanner and the door opens. Time to go deeper!

Hello? Any demons in here?

The next room is a bit strange. Most of the north wall is made up of machinery. There is a diagram of a solar eclipse above some levers plus a strange slot. If I get the levers right, will something pop out of the slot? Spock scans and discovers that the machine is waiting for the gravitational pull of a solar eclipse to be activated but the planet’s moon was destroyed thousands of years ago. Are the levers a manual override?

The ancient symbol of “Pac-Man”.

This puzzle is tough. It consists of three colored circles representing the sun (yellow), the moon (red), and the planet (blue). Each of those has a certain portion shaded, although the yellow sun seems to be in the shadows and not itself shaded. I’m not sure what to make of that. There are also three matching power bars (with six illuminated sections each) and three matching control levers. But other than that, there’s no clue what to do. When I move the levers, it adjusts the meters on the left, but not how you would expect: if you start with the yellow on the bottom and move it up, it will gradually have less yellow lights lit until it gets to around the middle and then they will all gradually light up again. The three fractions don’t seem to help much: the sun is either full or half, depending on whether that shadow is supposed to be meaningful or not; the moon is one half, while the planet is five-sixths. I try to align the levers that way or try to make the meters line up that way but no dice. There is no feedback except to say that nothing happens, nor any other clues that I can find. Brute force will be impossible because there are either 125 possible positions if the lights on the left are what matter or more than a thousand if the possible positions of the levers do. Eventually, I give up and return to camp.


I explore everything again and discover that the computer in Brother Stephen’s lab is running a simulation of that long-gone solar eclipse. It feels like there’s a hint there, but I can’t find it. Now that Stephen is in the room-- he wasn’t when I came here at the beginning-- he’ll happily chat with me about the objects in his museum case: an animal skull, two different chunks of ore, a shell, and a strange piece of metal. He tells me that the metal suggests there was once intelligent life on this planet, but I suspect the shape-changing robots are probably the better clue. He offers to let me take the museum pieces, so I grab them all. This is the only “new” thing that I find so eventually I give up and return to the underground room.

The Pollux V natural history museum is just getting started.

I use the metal rod in the slot and discover that it’s actually a key! Unfortunately, we mere humans aren’t strong enough to turn it and I am left with the sliding lever puzzle one more time. It’s either difficult or stupid and I don’t see the answer.

In the end, I get it but completely by accident. I deserve no credit. If you place each lever such that the meters are on their lowest settings-- that is, you put them roughly in the middle position-- the machine activates! I suppose that during an eclipse that the power would be lower? But they explicitly said it measured gravity rather than solar energy so something doesn’t feel quite right. I spent close to an hour mucking with these dials and I’m peeved about the solution, especially that I didn’t get it by “solving” so much as “fiddling”.

We just met, but sure! Join our union.

The machine turns on and an elevator rises out of the floor to reveal an insect-like creature. He explains that he is a “Nauian” and that he and his race were put in stasis to survive meteor impacts and an expected ice age. They had programmed the system to wake them during the next lunar eclipse but the meteors must have destroyed the moon as well. They have been sleeping longer than anticipated. We get some dialog options again and I pick all the ones that seem nice and diplomatic to our new friends. The Nauian promises to disable the defense robots and I give him the key to do it. We also get a shred of character development for Kirk: the computer plucked Klingon opponents out of his brain because that is something he fears. Is that a plot point? The Nauians also seem to know all about the Federation and ask to join; Kirk offers to send a diplomat. We all beam out, satisfied of a job well done.

How many commendation points do I need for a prize?

On the bridge, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy engage in a bit of light-hearted banter about how demons have pointy ears, just like Spock does. We also get contacted by our admiral friend who tells us that we did a good job: 97% performance rating with 3 commendation points. Does anyone know what 3% I missed? Will it be a big deal? Will I miss the best ending if I do not get 100%?

This game seems pretty fun so far, but except for the puzzle with the levers, it was a pretty simple area. This feels like something that could have been on the original series and all the little character moments really sell the story. Let’s find our next adventure!

Star Trek Trivia
  • One of the colonists is a Tellarite, a pig-faced alien that appeared twice on the original series (“Journey to Babel” and “Whom Gods Destroy”). Tellarites are one of the “big four” founding races of the Federation alongside humans, Vulcans, and Andorians. 
  • The USS Republic that Kirk mock-battles was the ship that he served on as an ensign many years earlier. (“Court Martial”) 
  • Pollux V was briefly mentioned as uninhabited in the episode, “Who Mourns for Adonais”. Its neighbor, Pollux IV, was where the Greek god Apollo (or rather the alien that inspired that myth) had lived after leaving ancient Earth. 
Next time: Hijacked!

Time played: 2 hr 30 min
Total time: 2 hr 30 min

26 comments:

  1. Nice going so far!

    Mere humans weren't strong enough to turn the rod-key? "As you are so fond of reminding me, doctor, I am not human."

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    1. I did not try that! I will see what happens if Spock does it later tonight...

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  2. Introduction

    "Space... The final frontier...These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise."

    Says William Shatner over my headphones. Oh, this is going to be grea...

    "Its mission. To explore strange new worlds. To discover new life and new civilization."

    Wait... they changed the opening... this is a disaste--

    "...To boldly go where no man has gone before!"

    Then the MIDI rendition of the theme music plays and all is forgiven.

    Then I hear Leonard Nemoy read the title "DEMON WORLD".

    This game waste no time from bootup. It went straight to the tutorial/mock battle immediately.

    ....and then I "died". Just like Joe, I am using my laptop's touchpad so that may have affected my accuracy, but this is horrible. I know that there will be space battles later on, so I decided to restart and try to get the hang of the battle. But not before exploring the interface.

    Bridge UI

    After playing around, I am happy to report that the game can be played with just the keyboard. You'll lose precision, but its workable.

    While trying out the Bridge's icons, I accidentally warp myself beyond the Neutral Zone. Oh dear.

    At least I get to play with the battle controls. ....and its not actually bad.

    I restart, confident that I can win the tutorial... and I lose again. This happened four times.

    Space Battle
    ....I don't think you can win this simulation.

    But I can tell you how it works. (Spoiler for Joe and those looking to figure out the game) Svefg, lbh unir gb npgvingr gur fuvryqf naq jrncbaf. Guvf pna or qbar jvgu gur dhvpx gnc bs F naq J, erfcrpgviryl. Arkg, lbh unir gb ybbx ng gur enqne naq nyvta lbhefrys gb gur rarzl qbg. Lbh cerff ` gb tb ba erirefr. Lbh cerff R gb trg fbzr rkgen obbfg sebz Fpbggl. Gura lbh fcnz gur Ragre naq Fcnpr One xrlf gb jva. Vs lbh trg uvg, cerff Q gb oevat hc qnzntr pbageby naq svk gur fuvryq. Vs lbh unq n pbyyvfvba (Cercner sbe enzzvat fcrrq!), svk Uhyy naq Oevqtr.

    Gung'f onfvpnyyl vg. Gur znahny uvagrq gung vs lbhe yrsg fuvryq vf qnzntrq, lbh zvtug jnag gb znahrire fb gung gur rarzl vf ba gur evtug fvqr. Ohg va cenpgvpr, V svaq fcnzzvat vf n orggre bcgvba. Gur ernfba sbe guvf vf gung vg vf uneq gb zbir lbhe ohyxl fuvc nebhaq naq unir n frafr bs jurer lbh ner va 3Q fcnpr.

    The Space Battle is simplistic but this is the 90s and the arcade style of action is still relevant. The game tries to add depth to the battle (which is appreciated), but in the end, its best to think of this as a minigame to supplement the adventure game. In that context, this is one of the better minigames in the adventure genre.

    Moving on

    Alright, enough with the space battle. Let's get to the adventure.

    I've restarted the game since I forgotten about what the Starfleet message was. ...when I won the mock battle. *sigh*

    Based on the Acolyte computer entry, I think this will be the common arc in all the episodes that Joe suspects this game has.

    Once I am orbiting Pollux V, I asked Uhura in case we have communication as I expect the colony to have detected our arrival. I'm told to beam down and meet the Prelate. The computer tells us that I am meeting the leader of the acolytes. This will be interesting.

    Beaming down to the surface, I find the High Prelate waiting for me. I wondered if he will be here if I didn't contacted the planet prior.

    Dr. McCoy noted the flora of the planet. I find DeForest Kelley's voice slow and calm compared to the tv series, but I'll chalk that up to old age. During the dialogue system, I really enjoy hearing William Shatner voice each one of the possible responses (Sorry Joe for making you jealous).

    Talking to a crew, I think I like Ensign Everts' optimism. I really don't want him to die. In one of the buildings, Ensign Everts wonders if any of the stuff lying around could be useful. ...I think he'll make a fine adventurer.

    After entering the buildings, I head north to look for berries when...

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    1. First Strike

      KLINGONS! THREE OF THEM!

      At first I tried to talk to them (a poor choice since they already have their weapons out) and they fired on poor Ensign Everts. I whipped out the phaser (careful to choose Green for stun) and fired at one of them. A Klingon then shot at Spock!

      Thankfully, after all three Klingons fall down, the two gentlemen stood up; apparently, they were only stunned. Joe, maybe this is a difference between our versions?

      After the Klingons exploded and the Klingon's hand fell with a dull thud, I've become suspicious. And if I know my tropes, these are robots! Spock's tricorder confirms this suspicion.

      I took the berries, made the cure, and applied it.

      The door

      From the conversation with the High Prelate, I remembered that there was a man trapped inside the rubble. Joe was unfortunate that he didn't look at the upper left rock which gave a hint that it was unstable.

      I know that I'm going to use the phaser since none of my crew had a shovel in their pockets. I had Spock scan the rubble and he suggest the we should start from the top going down. I set my phaser to full and started destroying the rocks. As soon as I see the poor colonist, I had McCoy patch him up.

      With that done, I look into studying the door. It seems that we need a hand scan to enter. I am very wary, but I "use" the hand terminal. I'm hoping it won't kill us. ....But Ensign Everts decided to try it. Oh dear.

      ....Good thing Everts was only shocked.... he is still alive. But now, it is quite obvious what needed to be done. There's only one place where the game told me anything related to a hand: the fake Klingon!

      I immediately went back to the Klingon and try to take the Klingon. Which doesn't work. And I felt a chill as I "look" at each pixel... till I found the hand. *sigh* Pixel hunting, my oldest enemy.

      The hand is only a few pixels so its not noticable... but if I put the game into full screen, I can see the hand much clearer.

      Mental note: There might be pixel hunting in this game, so I should go full screen from time to time.

      Before going back to the door, I've decided to show the hand to the colony scientist, just in case. Which turned out to a great idea as Spock was able to fix the hand's circuitry. Showing the fixed hand to the scientist, he mentions that the hand's tip has microchip sensors and he wonders what it does. Well, I've played enough adventure games to know why its there!

      I'm unsure if this is another version difference between mine and Joe's. I didn't try using the hand on the door before fixing it.

      Behind the door to hell

      As soon as I enter, I hear the MIDI version of one of the background music in TOS. I recognized it as being played when the crew stumble into something strange. And what a strange sight it is.

      I am in a room full of computers! This must be the advance civilization the Scientist has theorized was here before their arrival.

      Spock remarked on a model of Pollux V's lunar eclipse. what a coincidence that the Acolyte's scientist was also researching lunar eclipse. I think during development, this coincidence was done to give the player a hint. Game design comes first over realistic stories, of course.

      Spock's examination also reveals that this machine can read minds to a limited extent, and created the monsters. All of these were foreshadowed by the game before-hand, mostly by Spock.

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    2. Puzzle

      This took me a while to figure out. But similar to Joe, I felt as if I fiddled with it rather than solve it. I think the levels are supposed to refer to RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and we are lowering the values so it'll show up as black (or absent of colors).

      After completing the puzzle, I was greeted by the alien race that has been kept alive by the life support system. I am then given an option to respond either as 1) hostile or 2) benevolent or 3) as a Ferrengi and demand payment for the repair of the machine.

      Well, its quite obvious what the answer is.

      This is another place where me and Joe differed in our approach. Joe use the metal rod on the slot before the Alien appeared, whereas I gave the metal rod afterwards. But I don't think this affects the score.

      But wait, there's more

      The episode isn't finished! The alien race realizes that the key for turning off the security is missing! We need to find it.

      Already, I suspect that the Scientist have accidentally found the key. But I bet a little phaser fire can destroy the security... as well as any advanced technology that Starfleet might want to study.

      So I took the peaceful approach, and went back to the lab and see what might be the "key" that we need.

      Like a real adventure game player, I took everything! Well, I DID promised I'll return them.

      As soon as I got back to the alien room, McCoy straight out gave me the answer for the "key" is the skull. *sigh*. I was hoping to try each thingamajig with the other thingamajig and make the key. Why take that away from me, Bones???

      ....oh wait, after using the Bones, er, the skull on the Alien, they replied that its a dead descendant of their race. For some strange reason, the Alien wants to do a ritual on the bones. So, either I return the item to the Scientist (as I promised), or I let the Alien do their ritual for the dead.

      I did the latter. I believe this is the missing 3% that Joe needed.

      Episode 1 result

      The Naurian Aliens want to join the Federation! Kirk will make a fine Borg as he help assimilate other Alien lifeforms into The One True Alliance.

      ...wait, is Kirk asking Scott to beam us up? Wait, I still have Brother's Stephen's stuff. Wait. Kirk? Haven't you forgotten... argh!

      I am expecting to be reprimand for this. ....Wait, 100% performance evaluation? Admiral, are you sure?

      http://imgur.com/a/kL45J

      A PERFECT MISSION?

      ....I am a role model!

      But the ending of the episode is classic TOS. Dr. McCoy gives his thoughts, Kirk replies, and Spock interjects. Classic!

      I am quite happy with this episode. It feels like a proper Star Trek episode. Sure, violence was used, but it was for self defense. And things are not what they often seem.

      There is no heavy philosophy in this episode, unless you consider fear only comes from within. But even that is stretching it. Not all Trek episodes have philosophy in it. Some like this one, can just be a straight up adventure.

      Completion time: roughly 3 hours, according to Steam.

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    3. I unsuccessfully used the metal rod early. I used it again after he appeared to get it working.

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  3. I was right, it's the same game as the demo, that bridge view is unmistakable. And the same problem figuring out the controls for the ship combat, but for me without a guide or the help of the internet. And the star chart... randomly pick a sector and hope for the best.

    And the episode with Apollo is the only episode I watched of the original series when it came on some rerun some 10 years ago. Took me by surprise that Kirk had a yellow shirt when the commanders had red in the later series.

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    1. In the original series, the colors were:

      Yellow/Green for command officers
      Red for engineering/security/communications
      Blue for science/medical

      TNG switched Yellow and Red colors. Kirk only wore green a few times; it seems to have been an alternate uniform color.

      Much much much more can be said about the uniforms, the rank insignia, the undershirts, etc. all had meaning at least retroactively. This was a military outfit and Gene Roddenberry was familiar with those tropes and made them semi-consistent here.

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    2. One wonder why they decided to change, although they pretty much began the change with the movies since everyone seemed to have the same red uniform there (except the first one when everyone had white an grey).

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    3. Thanks, Joe. You've finally answered something I've wondered about for years.

      I never got why (in TNG) the bridge crew wore yellow but the 2 bosses wore red, but then the junior officers (Like Geordi before the promotion and Wesley) wore the same colour as the highest ranking members.

      It's still a bit weird that the low ranks have the same colour as high ranks but it makes a little bit more sense to me now.

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    4. When the movies came along, the costume designers had control to change everything. The first movie is the most different, but after that the rest of the TOS movies generally had the red ones.

      The bright colors of the original costumes were designed for TV. Even when they did the TNG movies, they redesigned them to be more muted on the big screen.

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  4. After taking the time to actually read through the manual and learn the controls, I found the space combat wasn't that bad (lots of hours put in on good ol' LucasArts X-Wing) but I still feel it's really unfair that they just dump you into it, even if it's a simulation. It's also obnoxious that, when starting up the game, you have to wait/click through all the introductory stuff all the way into the simulation battle before you can load a saved game. No opening menu!

    The eclipse puzzle was B.S. I fiddled with it for a couple minutes before looking up a solution online. I ain't got time for unexplained puzzles these days. If you have Spock examine the diagram of the planets, he says that it probably tells you how to set the levers. That's not terribly helpful, Spock...

    Did you show the skull to the sleeping alien? I think that might be worth some points. I also got 97% on this one; I think I lost points because I also picked up all of the irrelevant items from the display case. Brother Stephen mentions that he would like his items back when you're done, so after I figured out what I didn't need, I went and returned the extra items, but that didn't seem to help my score.

    I did much worse on the second mission; I only got 67% there. I didn't do anything obviously wrong (I'm sure getting your redshirt killed is a big penalty), but I assume I chose some incorrect dialog options along the way. There's at least one puzzle that appears to have multiple solutions, maybe I chose a "bad" solution?

    The manual mentions that the commendation points you earn will improve the performance of your crew in combat. Hopefully imperfect performance on early missions won't doom us to unwinnably difficult fights at the end of the game!

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    1. Showing the skull was what I missed. I went back and did it and will report on it for the next post.

      I'm still playing the second episode, but there's a lot more role-play in that one where it seems Kirk could make different "right" choices. We'll talk about it next week but I won't have a chance to try out all the dialog options. I'd love to hear (then) which ones you picked that led to that score if it is different from mine.

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  5. And for any of you that have not seen it:

    Star Trekkin' across the universe! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlTMXiqbDZU

    (Not the original, but a superior fan video.)

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  6. I'm skipping reading this for now as I have actually installed the game to play along - but the main question.. did he find his soul to steal?

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    1. The man said, “The name’s James Kirk,
      Of the Federation.
      It’ll be a rout
      With my Corbomite shout
      ‘Cause this Captain always wins.”

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  7. Gah, that UI! The lack of in-game help for what you should do is unbelievably bad, and there's also very little feedback about how well you're doing in the fight.

    So I failed the first fight (as seems to be par for the course), didn't know you could move the enterprise at all (sitting duck!), and then warped to two wrong systems, fighting off a pirate first then dying to Klingons.

    Not a great start to the game!

    I also can't find the manual in the GOG install file, having the manual, key map and starmap as "game goodies", when they're actually pretty essential!

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    1. I will say more about the UI in the next couple of posts as I get used to it, but I agree with you. The biggest sin of the game so far is starting immediately in combat without offering even a bit of explanation for someone trying to figure out how to play.

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    2. I struggled with the UI on the planet too, sometimes you know what to do but figuring out the way to use the interface is tough.

      I also managed to complete the first mission with a 97% performance rating and with 3 commendation points. Not sure where that other 3% went!

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  8. I cannot complete the second mission, I have consulted hint books and yet I am still unable to complete it. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to combine items, or use an item in my inventory on another. The hint books/FAQs seem to indicate this is a simple task, but nothing I try works.

    I also feel like I'm missing a way of looking at items in my inventory, to get a name and description. I've got a bunch of things, some of which might just be junk, but I can't figure out what's important and what isn't.

    Any help will be gratefully received! I do await the next post with great interest, to see how easily Joe has figured things out by comparison!

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    1. Andy, I just finished the second episode and will write about it in a few days. I also just finished writing about the UI which I admit has major drawbacks.

      Using an item with an item is just clicking the "use" icon, then the object that you want to use (it should appear in the upper-left corner), then clicking the inventory icon (also upper-left), and then the object that you want to use it on.

      If the two work together, something will happen. If not, you'll select the second item. Pretty dumb, but that's what happens.

      In my experimentation, I found that SOME object/object interactions seem to be scripted to the room. So you can use a tricorder on X but only in the room you found X. Any other room and it acts like a selection.

      I also got blocked once because I needed to pick up an item in Ep2 the first time that I unlocked it. I came back later and it was no longer grab-able. That doesn't seem to be what's happening to you. I hope this helps. Good luck! I'll have a play-by-play in a few days.

      Cbjre gur jryqre jvgu n cunfre gura lbh pna nffrzoyr gur inevbhf cvrprf gbtrgure. V qba'g erzrzore gur beqre vzzrqvngryl. Bapr lbh unir vg nyy gbtrgure, lbh pna hfr vg ba gur genafcbegre gb cnegvnyyl ercnve vg.

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    2. I'm pretty sure I tried using everything on everything else, to no effect. Perhaps I was in the wrong room?

      Of course it would be easier if I could "look" at the items and know what they should be, to help me follow the hints.

      It was all going so well too... I thought I'd been pretty smart up to that point.

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    3. You can look at items in your inventory. Use the "look" (eyes) and then click on the bag in the upper-left corner to open your inventory, then select what you want to look at.

      But strange you are having difficulties. I am having a few myself, but not on that. I pretty much solved that puzzle by accident because I started combining things before I realized why I needed to. But more on that in a few days...

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    4. I solved mission 2 in a different way, but it did still require some combining of items. Agree that the system for combining feels weird: if the items don't combine, rather than getting an error message, it just selects the second item. On the other hand, this makes it MUCH faster to do the old "use every item on every other item" thing if you get stuck.

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  9. I similarly only managed 97%, but I don't see what the problem everyone is having with combat is. Slow your ship down to increase maneuverability and fire where they're going to be, not where they are. Spam phasers and torpedoes until they go kaboom.

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  10. You guys are too good for me. I got 91%. My ensign lived (died the first time but I reloaded) and I gave the skull to the alien, but I probably missed looking at a few things with the tricorder or something. And like Fry, I also walkthroughed the eclipse puzzle.

    UHS gives a vague explanation for the eclipse puzzle which may be correct, but I don't quite like it...

    1. Before you do anything, you might want to have Spock use his tricorder on the drawing above the panel.
    2. The circles are supposed to be representative of an eclipse.
    3. And when there's an eclipse, everything is supposed to be dark.
    4. Set the switches so that everything turns as dark as possible.
    5. Put all of the switches in the middle of their slots.

    And for a too-late tip - not sure if it's valid in the floppy version but there is a shortcut to the star map/navigation screen. 'N'

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