Monday, March 1, 2010

Week in Geek

I spent a lot of time this week playing Aurora, which is sort of like a combination of Master of Orion 2 and the Traveller Hard-SF RPG, if you built the game to be run on Windows 3.1. It's very realistic, very detailed (mechanically), and has almost no graphics to speak of beyond a very retro Windows interface. Apparently, it's written in Visual Basic 6, and runs on top of an Access database.

It's addictive, but slow. And it doesn't give you any shortcuts. For example - you want to build a cruiser with a laser gun in it. You need to research lasers, first. Makes sense. Of course, you actually have to research laser type, laser focal size, capacitors, and one other technology that slips my mind at the moment before you can build lasers. So, you do all that - and you're still not ready. See, in Aurora, each specific configuration of technology has to be researched as well. So you have to design the actual baseline laser, then research that. Once done, you can put that laser in your ship designs.

Of course, you can't fire it. See, lasers require power, and you have to add the power plant to the ship separately. So you research and build that. But then you're good, right?

Nope. Can't aim the laser without a fire control mechanism. Gotta research the tech for that, then research a fire control design. Then add that to the ship design. Then you're almost set - when the ship comes off the assembly line, you have to link the fire control to the weapon that uses it. THEN you're done.

And everything in the game is like that. Colonizing a world? Can't just send a colony ship. Gotta bring over infrastructure and factories too. Nothing is automatic. This is not a game where you build a massive military fleet and conquer the universe. This is a game where you build fleets of freighters to slowly widen the borders of your tiny space empire. I think it would be completely impenetrable to the casual gamer, and even though I have a fondness for OCD micro-management, it's almost more than I can stand to play.

But I have to see what happens next turn..

The only other noteworthy geek thing from this week was that I did an extended toy run yesterday - and I braved the Busy Wal-Mart. The Busy Wal-Mart is at the outskirts of my toy hunting range, near a Target and Toys 'R Us that I check regularly. But I usually skip the Busy Wal-Mart, because it and the shopping plaza it is in are insanely crowded, all the time. I've never been able to park there anywhere other than the furthest outer edge of the parking lot. It is packed wall to wall with people.

However, it is very fortunate that I decided to give it a try - I was able to locate the three new Secret Wars Two-Packs for the Marvel Universe line. Thor and Enchantress; Reed and Ultron; Hawkeye and Piledriver. No place else locally has had them when I've checked. Totally worth having to edge past aisles full of poorly controlled children.

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