Bill MacKenty

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Getting to Z: part 4

Posted in Games in education on 23 - February 2006 at 09:30 PM (18 years ago). 222 views.

This might be a stretch for those of you unfamiliar with text-based gaming, I’ve tried to annotate the events to help unfamiliar users.  I’ve also slightly edited the screenshots for readability.

The kids have groked MUSH syntax. Our syntax error rate has decreased substantially.  We finished CG and boarded the USS Lexington, an intrepid class starship. 
Here’s a screenshot of our fully manned bridge.  All hands are ready.  Jay is our engineer, Andres is on helm, and Dan is our tactical officer.  I’m Duncan.

__________________Bridge - Deck 1 [USS Lexington]____________________________
/  _________________________________________________________________________|
|  /
|  |  The bridge of the USS Lexington is a smallish oval-shaped room. The
|  |  fore wall is dominated by a large curving viewscreen that wraps  
|  |  along fully half the width of the room. The sides of the viewscreen
|  |  are segmented into subscreens for auxillary displays. In the center
|  |  of the room is the traditional Captain’s and First officer’s chairs
|  |  with their own small consoles on swivel-mount arms. In front of  
|  |  those is the sweeping wide dash-like console of the flight-ops    
|  |  officer. Behind, on a slightly raised platform curving around the  
|  |  aft portion of the bridge, are two semi-enclosed console areas for
|  |  operations and tactical. Other minor console clusters are mounted  
|  |  on the starboard side of the bridge wall. A set of frosted glass  
|  |  double doors on the starboard side leads to the Ready Room. To the
|  |  aft of those doors are steps leading down to the main blast doors  
|  |  leading back into the main corridor.                     
|  \__              __________________                      ________________________
|  __| Contents |__________________| Obvious Exits |________________________|
|  /
|  |  Bridge Console 2 (andres)         Turbolift (T) - [Turbolift]
|  |  Bridge Console 3 (dan)               Door     (101) - [Briefing Room]
|  |  Bridge Console 4 (Jay)            Door     (100) - [Ready Room]
|  |  Viewscreen              
|  |  Captain’s Chair 1 (Duncan)   
|  |         
|  \_________________________________________________________________________

We activate console modes, and activate systems on the ship.
You say, “Engineer…type “mode eng” without the quotes
You say, “Tactical. Type “mode tac” without the quotes
You say, “helm…type “mode helm” without the quotes

Each one of the students then started activating different systems on the ship.
[Jay]—[M/A reactor set at 100.000%]
[Jay]—[Fusion reactor set at 100.000%]
[Jay]—[Batteries set at 100.000%]

[dan]—[Short-range sensors online]
[dan]—[Long-range sensors online]
[dan]—[Electronic warfare systems online]

[dan]—[Forward shield online]
[dan]—[Starboard shield online]
[dan]—[Aft shield online]
[dan]—[Port shield online]

and then, with a simple command, we were flying!
You say, “helm: warp 2”
[andres]—[Speed set to warp 2.000000]

Now I think it’s worth pausing here, and trying to describe the scene.

There are 3 8th grade students, absolutely glued to their screens.  We aren’t sitting in the Edgartown School computer lab, we are on the bridge of a starship, preparing for our first flight into space!  Keep in mind, this is completely textual!!.  No graphics, no sound…just text.  What happens next is really outstanding.

We immediately encountered something rather odd…
[WARNING]—[New sensor contact (12): Ship]
[contact (12) engages its cloaking device]

You say, “helm? Tactical?”
You say, “did that ship just cloak?”

dan says, “ya i think”
You say, “helm! Tac! type “det 12”
You say, “tactical: type “alert yellow”

We try to contact the ship, and establish it’s intentions.  Unfortunately, I know when a ship cloaks right in front of you, it’s not normally a particularly good sign….
USS LEXINGTON: Hailing the Advocate General. What are your intentions?

Duncan looks concerned
Duncan pushes some buttons on the captains chair.

SS ADVOCATE GENERAL: “You will halt and surrender your vessel”

I’m not sure we are ready to surrender!  Before I could try to reason things out…
[WARNING]—[Weapon lock from SS Advocate General (12) detected]

You say, “TAC! ALERT RED!!!!”
You say, “TAC ACT ALL WEAPONS!!!!!”
[dan]—[Alert condition changed to Red]

{COMPUTER}—[Red Alert initiated by: dan]

[dan]—[Beam Weapon 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Missile Weapon 1 2 3 online]


Here is the very first glimmer how knoweldge of the 3D axis will help us. We can see the other ships bearing, heading, and range relative to us.
You say, “HELM! DET 12!!!! WHAT IS HIS BEARING?!?!!!”

—[Detailed Sensor Report]——————————————————————————-
Type: Ship                           Resolution: 151.409%       
Name: SS Advocate General     Cargo Capacity: 81000 mt        
Class: Norexan                    Displacement: 3240000 mt      
Design: Rihannsu BB             Specialization: General Use      
Docking Capacity: None          Landing Capacity: 6480 mt        
Flags: ASBEeM        
Contact Arc: A                    Contact Shield: Aft shield     UP
Course: 83.000 2.000                     Speed: Warp 2.001000    
Galactic X Y Z:      100.009       -99.924       103.003
Territory: Unclaimed               Quadrant: Delta          
Bearing: 111.285 4.831               Range: 1374194 SU      
Firing Arc: F                         Facing Shield: Forward shield   UP

You say, “HELM: INT 12!!!”

[andres]—[Intercept course to SS Advocate General (12) set 263.000 358.000]
[Pitch now 358.000 degrees]
[Yaw now 263.000 degrees]

We turned to face him. He fires, and thankfully for us, misses. Using some simple @emits, we raise the suspense and dramatic tension
[WARNING]—[SS Advocate General (12) firing: B1:—]

You say, “NO!!!!!”
Duncan slams his chair

Our beams fully charged, we try again to establish contact and end this confrontation
[Beam capacitor fully charged]

SS ADVOCATE GENERAL: “What is it Lexington”
USS LEXINGTON: WHY HAVE YOU FIRED ON US? We are on a peaceful training exercise!

[WARNING]—[SS Advocate General (12) firing: B1:75]
USS Lexington rocks violently from an impact.
[Aft shield: 100% Patched Damage]
[Superstructure: 100% Patched Damage]

Well. The old “let’s try to talk this out” strategy isn’t working.  Time to let him know we will poke back.
You say, “TAC: “snap 12”“

[dan]—[Beam Weapon 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Missile Weapon 1 2 3 locked on SS Advocate General (12)]

We are hit. The B2 means Beam 2 hits.  The number is the level of damage
[WARNING]—[SS Advocate General (12) firing: B2:70]
USS Lexington rocks violently from an impact.
[Aft shield: 100% Patched Damage]
[Superstructure: 100% Patched Damage]

Meanwhile, our engineer was busy trying to patch the damage to our ship.
[Jay]—[Superstructure repairs complete]
[Repair capacity maximized]
[Jay]—[Aft shield repairs complete]

Again our advesary fires and hits.
[WARNING]—[SS Advocate General (12) firing: B1:75]
USS Lexington rocks violently from an impact.
[Aft shield: 100% Patched Damage]
[Superstructure: 100% Patched Damage]

Ok. Enough is enough. With fingers flying over the keyboard, we defend ourselves! We hit the Romulian ship with 8 banks of phasers.
You say, “TACTICAL !!!!! “FIRE”!!!!!!!”

[dan]—[Firing at SS Advocate General (12): B1:100 B2:70 B3:70 B4:70 B5:50 B6:50 B7:50 B8:50]

It was about now when we learned a valuable lesson about “staying away from photon torpedos”
[WARNING]—[SS Advocate General (12) firing: B1:75 M1:800 M2:800 M3:800]
USS Lexington rocks violently from an impact.
[Aft shield: 90% Light Damage]
[Superstructure: 91% Minor Damage]
[M/A Reactor: 98% Patched Damage]
[Beam Weapon 5: 54% Moderate Damage]
[Beam Weapon 7: 21% Severe Damage]
[EW Systems: 97% Patched Damage]
[SR Sensors: 99% Patched Damage]
[Transporters: 93% Minor Damage]
[Warp Drive: 93% Minor Damage]
[Life Support: 95% Patched Damage]

That was quite a hit.  With a neophyte crew and a badly damaged ship, we turned tail and ran away. Our engineer must of used duct tape to keep us flying.

[Jay]—[Superstructure repaired to 92%]

You say, “HELM!!! WARP MAX!!!!!!”
[andres]—[Speed set to warp 9.600000]

You say, “We are running away. We cannot beat this ship.”

The encounter ended as class ended.  The encounter was a fantastic opportunity, and the kids are absolutely hungry to play more.  We’ll really start to dig into navigation and moving around in the next lesson.  For now, though, we have seen how games can provide a rich and compelling learning experience!