Monday, September 16, 2019

Rain is here <3

It seems to be checkup season for me as I have/had appointments with my doctor, dentist, and optometrist these two weeks.  So far the doctor and optometrist both told me that I'm looking pretty healthy, but we'll see about the dentist...haha (pretty sure I'll have to get some work done).

I think my goal for the upcoming Ludum Dare (10/4-6) is actually going to be to use Godot Engine!  I've had almost no experience actually using Godot (I downloaded it in the past a long time ago), but I'm feeling quite optimistic about it based on everything I've read, especially after they released their major 3.0 update.  Godot is open-source (no licensing whatsoever!) and looks to offer a 2D-optimized workflow (no silly hacks to get your pixel art working properly), somewhat of a hybrid between the lightweight nature of Flashpunk/Flixel plus the editor/scene view of something like Unity.  I'm actually feeling very hopeful that this will be my future engine of choice, though of course the only real way to tell will be to give it a test run.  Of course Rhythm Quest will still have to be finished up in Unity, but I don't think that's a huge deal to be honest.

This does mean that I'll have to ditch all of my Unity code that I've accumulated over the years, but hopefully a lot of it is things that I don't NEED anymore in Godot as I won't have to do my own boxcasting and 2d platformer physics implementations anymore -- that kind of functionality looks to be baked in so all you need to do is write the actual kinematic physics logic.  Audio functionality seems to be promising as well, there's even a page dedicated to syncing audio with gameplay, so you can tell these are issues that they're actually thinking about.  Of course need to look into playing around with the engine before LD actually hits, as well as maybe building out some common functions that I might need like screen transitions and the like (this could also be a good time to implement some fancier transitions rather than using screen fades for everything).

I've certainly got a lot of things to take care of in the remaining half of the month, but I'm getting through them one by one (already took care of the FNW setlist for example).  I guess here are the main things left that HAVE to get done in this timeframe:

- One or two more birthday letters to write
- Write a few Inktober letters ahead of time so I don't have to do them during LD
- Need to do pixel art for September Monthlies
- Pixel art commissions -- I've drawn 57 sprites, need to do ~43 more
- Warm up project for LD using Godot

There are some other things that would be pretty nice to get squared away as well:

- Clean up room decorations...
- Need to finish a remix for a Patreon request (I've already started)
- Finish work on my 4-wide trainer so I can publish it (mostly a bunch of documentation and formatting)
- Pixel art for some various album covers....

So yeah, a bunch of stuff.  We'll see how much of it I actually get through, but as always, as long as I'm making steady forward progress, I can't really complain.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Did the laundry, wrote a letter, prepared two meals, made some dance edits, put together a setlist, swept the floor, filed some letters....I'm on the right track for today.  There's still much to do, though.  Music, pixel art, coding, writing, cleaning...there's no way around it but to simply do each one of them in turn.  Life has no shortcuts or breaks, only tradeoffs and priorities.

Monday, September 9, 2019

It feels really silly, putting an address on the envelope
when I know it will never reach my past

But it's all a part of the ritual.  And this, too, is important.

"Celeste: Farewell" is out today.  I'll have to wait until an appropriate time to play through it with the attention that it deserves.


I'm not in any rush.  I know the mountain will be there, waiting for me.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Crunchyroll Expo, Mega Man 11, 2D Platformer ability design

Life has just been chugging along, it seems.  Nothing spectacular has been happening, but that's not a bad thing really at all.


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Crunchyroll Expo 2019 happened and I stopped by on Saturday to hang out, walk around, and go to some things that seemed interesting.  I got to go see the premiere of the first two episodes of Season 3 of Chihayafuru which actually ended up being a highlight of the entire thing, I had no idea I was going to enjoy it that much!  That moment near the end when _____ finished playing their match and thought to themselves _________ and the other member on their team suddenly realized _________, omg, that really really got to me for some reason.  So yeah, that was great!  Makes me want to rewatch the first two seasons at some point, especially to refresh my memory about all of the other more minor characters that I completely forgot about, haha...oh!  And I just remembered that there's a live action movie series as well...maybe I'll give that a watch too =X

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I bought and played through all of Mega Man 11!  I pulled the trigger after watching some reviews and such and since it was on sale on Steam.

I ended up enjoying it quite nicely!  It's a nice blend of old and new as far as Mega Man goes.  The thing with Mega Man is that the old tried and true formula is really just great at its core -- running and jumping and shooting.....more running and jumping and shooting....it's just good 2D platforming at its finest and I've always been a huge fan of it.  That said there ARE already a ton of classic Mega Man games out there, so as much as I'd love more games in the vein of Mega Man 9 and 10 (which were faithful to the NES series) (various fangames also exist, some of which I've played through), I will say that the fresh coat of paint that Mega Man 11 offers does make a lot of sense.


The graphics were pretty decent and I didn't mind the 2.5D much at all!  Unlike a certain other popular game pretty much everything was very readable -- just look at the screenshot above and how obvious it is that the yellow center pieces of each gear are in the foreground, while the rest of the gear is in the background.  One thing I thought looked a little odd were the "fuzziness" of the black outlines on the cel shading, but maybe I should chalk that up to me playing on a monitor with only 1280x1024 resolution?  Perhaps it looks better with a higher pixel density, but maybe rendering thin outlines is just not a strong point of the cel shaded look.

The bosses were pretty well designed -- they had a lot of personality, both in their animations and voice acting (I played only with the Japanese VA).

Maybe I was a bit biased after watching a video analyzing the level design, but I really did appreciate the designs of most of the stages and how they made for interesting progressions despite only using a few unique elements per stage.  It felt like they really made the most of many (perhaps not all, but many) of the different "gimmicks" they introduced in each stage, and that sort of clean, logical, and pleasant progression reminded me a little bit of Celeste.



The main "new mechanic" of MM11 is the "double gear system", which allows you to get a temporary limited boost to your power or slow down time for a bit.  It was an interesting concept, and actually played out pretty neatly in practice a few times -- those moments when you activate the both (double) gears at once for a last-ditch attempt to beat a miniboss and then finish the fight at low health.

However, one of my complaints about all of these "extra" 2D platforming abilities -- whether it be special weapons in mega man, additional items in shovel knight, or even magic spells in hollow knight -- is that they tend to provide a sort of frantic decision paralysis in the moment while you're in the middle of an intense fight or platforming section.

The issue is that platforming and jumping around and shooting and all of these things already occupies so much of your brainspace in terms of attention required, that it's really hard to also add in the double gear system and trying to use the different special weapons and all of those things.

Now that I'm writing about this, it really gets me thinking about 2D platformer ability design.  I know that other people might really enjoy switching between different weapons during the middle of a Mega Man level, but I've always found it to be cumbersome, and a weak point of the series for me personally -- I always Buster my way through most of the stages unless there's something particularly well suited for a particular weapon (e.g. a tricky room, a platform that I need to air-dash too, etc).

There are multiple reasons for this:
- Weapons have limited ammo available (whereas the mega buster has unlimited ammo), so you naturally want to conserve them for situations where you actually NEED them.
- In addition, the bosses at the end of each stage typically have a significant weakness to a single weapon, and you don't know what it is ahead of time.  Since the boss battle can be one of the most difficult parts of the entire stage, this incentivizes you to save all of your ammo for the boss.  Again, you don't know which weapon type you'll need, and frequently you'll need all of the ammo of that type to beat the boss.
- Switching weapons requires either opening up the menu -- which is awkward in terms of game flow -- or quick-toggling via the right analog stick or the shoulder buttons.  The right analog stick selection is actually great, but there aren't enough opportunities to really =practice= mapping each direction to a weapon in order for it to become second nature.  Because of this, switching weapons requires you to stop and think about which weapon you want to use, figure out which direction to press in order to switch, THEN go about using the weapon.

So even though I thought Mega Man 11's eight special weapons were GREAT in their variety and design (you could tell they each would be useful in very different cases), I didn't find myself using them much outside of boss and miniboss battles.

I know this is part of Mega Man's fundamental core design, so I don't really blame Capcom for not iterating on it, but I do wonder if perhaps a different mechanic for boss weapons would work a little better.

If you look at abilities in Metroidvania games, you'll see that they fall into two different groups:

Some abilities fit very naturally into gameplay and you find yourself using them again and again very naturally.
The most common way for abilities to fall into this category is for them to just be upgrades to your existing powers.  Get a main weapon upgrade?  You're automatically using it all the time.
Note that some abilities are not "direct" upgrades but natural and very obvious extensions of existing powers.  A doublejump ability, for example, is very straightforward to grok.  The speed booster upgrade in Super Metroid is the same way -- there's nothing complicated about how to activate it, you just keep running.
Another common way for abilities to fall into this category is for them to be required to be used very very commonly.  The morph ball in Metroid falls into this category -- you use it soooooo often that it becomes second nature for you to use it again and again and again.

Other abilities don't really become part of your regular rotation.  They're either too situational, difficult to use, have a cost associated with them, etc.
The X-Ray scope in super metroid sort of falls into this.  Not only does the X-Ray scope stop all of your momentum, but you often don't really =know= when and where you need to use it.  So oftentimes your only choice is to go through the entire world pausing every so often to x-ray scope......but nobody does that because that would take foreeevvverr.
Most of the attack spells in Hollow Knight tend to fall into this category.  Not only do they require mana to use (mana which could be used for healing instead!), but there aren't a lot of enemies where using a certain magic attack is required or even significantly recommended over just using your sword.

The good thing about the offensive spells in Hollow Knight, though, is that they're very easy to execute, like the special moves in the Smash Bros series: Button press gives you a fireball.  Up + button press gives you an upwards attack.  Down + button press gives you a dive.  Very intuitive.  So even though I never really ended up using most of these most of the time, they're still easy to remember.

Perhaps that's really the key -- the control scheme associated with the abilities.  The WORST way to add a new ability is to simply add a new button or key for every single ability you gain.  There are some games where at the end of the game literally every button on the controller performs a different action: Jump, Attack, Sprint, Dash, Glide, Special Move 1, Teleport, ....

So maybe =intuitive button combos= and =contextual actions= are the way to go.  That still doesn't fix the problem of having limited ammo though.



What about something like this?

Every time you beat a robot master, you unlock a new ability.  These abilities have various intuitive input commands, for example:

Jump + Attack (while in the air): Performs a mid-air forward dash with a sword slice.
Special button + no direction: Creates an energy shield around you that absorbs enemy projectiles.  The next time you press the special button, the shield fires in the direction that you are holding (or facing)
Special button + either side: Shoots a boomerang in the direction that you're facing.  It has some tracking ability, which means you can direct it upwards or downwards by jumping before or after the shot.
Special button + down: Sends an energy bolt downwards.  When it reaches the ground, it splits into two energy balls that travel along the ground until hitting an enemy.
Special button (while mega buster is fully charged): 

Button combinations and contextual actions are used to help your muscle memory instead of forcing the player to memorize the arbitrary position of each of 8 different weapons.

These abilities all draw from a =shared ammo pool=, encouraging you to choose the ability that best fits the situation.

The shared ammo pool replenishes every time you die.  Normally Mega Man weapons encourage you to AVOID using them carelessly, because if you use up ammo on a boss and then die, you're left in a worse situation than you started with -- having to face the same boss battle, but with less ammo available.

In addition, the shared ammo pool also replenishes through normal gameplay, via something like:
- Gradual replenishment over time
- Replenishes with each enemy destroyed
- Replenishes via random pickups from enemies and scattered around the level.  There's also a large pickup before each boss.

The point is to encourage the regular use of these weapons as the situation demands, rather than incentivize saving ammo for the very end.  You need the player to become comfortable with using each of these abilities and the only way to really do this is to incentivize them to use them repeatedly.



So I dunno, maybe that's not a perfect solution.  But I do feel like there is a lot of room for experimentation and iteration here.

One thing that Mega Man 11 DID do right was giving rush coil/rush jet it's own button.  Woo!!!

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Have been continuing to drill puyo transitions -- I've gotten sort of comfortable with the sandwich transition and am now trying to wrap my head around GTR.  Building the GTR core is ok, but I find myself having trouble finding the right forms to work on both the first and second floor simultaneously with GTR since it's only 3 tall and I don't yet have a handle on managing color conflicts.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Those things that you left behind...they mean as much to you as you want them to.  It's okay to leave them behind for something better, but it's also okay to keep them close to you.  As long as you are being honest with yourself.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

JaSmix Summer 2019

I'll keep fighting.  I'll keep hoping.  Because it's a fortunate thing, to even be able to hope at all.  There are some who are not so lucky.  Those who have been forced to face the reality of life.


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JaSmix Summer 2019 was this past weekend and it was a great success!  (For those not in the know, JaSmix is a community-run social dance event that I've been organizing and putting together for the past 3 years -- it's completely free and it runs for the entire day with workshops, lessons, and lots of social dancing)  Like always, it was a lot of work, but really satisfying to hear everyone's positive feedback and energy and to see everyone having a great time.  We started at 3PM this year (and ran until midnight, as usual), but we had an even more packed event this time, with events running simultaneously in both the GCC and Hacienda for most of the day -- we had 6 workshops, a group intensive, private lessons, and of course lots of dancing.

There tends to be this point sometime during a JaSmix event where I suddenly get the realization that JaSmix is basically just as long as Big Dance and arguably MORE tiring for myself since I'm literally there for 9 straight hours (more like 10 if you include setup and teardown) doing everything.  I taught my "Advanced Turning Basics" workshop, did 4 private lessons, and had a 20-minute break to eat dinner before helping out with the practica session and then DJ for the dance.  I was feeling super tired after the combo of teaching my workshop and then 4 private lessons, but was pretty alright the dance had all started and most of my job was done.  My voice was definitely pretty much shot by the end of the night though -- talking so much will do that to ya.

As I mentioned, we had things running in two different rooms this time, which meant that this was the first time where it wasn't actually possible for me to be at all of the events that happened throughout the day. (need some sort of time turner if I want to do that....) so I wasn't able to see any of the group intensive nor any of the later workshops (I was busy teaching private lessons...).  Somehow it basically all went off without a hitch though, which I'm definitely grateful for.

My lesson itself went alright I think, people seemed to enjoy it at the very least.  The private lessons have been super rewarding as I feel like I've been getting much better at actually figuring things out together with people.  And I even got a few good dances in at some point during the night, which was great.  Oh, and people really made good use of the on-screen setlist display, so that was great.

Anyhow, I'm trying to take it a bit easy now that all of that is behind me.  Here's to the next JaSmix event, hopefully in about 6 months or so!

Monday, August 12, 2019

An...."interesting" weekend.  I'm definitely ready to just be done with people and things.  I've already noted this before, but it's really funny how my immediate reaction to being stressed, tired, or even just unhappy is to turn towards trying to get things done or accomplished.  That's not necessarily a bad thing at all, I mean it sort of makes sense really -- just gotta work through it so that it'll all be over sooner.  But it is sort of funny how it's during the myemie times that I can't think about taking a break.  It's extremely rare that I'll get to the point where I really just decide that I'm out.  Of course, it does happen.  But before I get to that point, it really annoys me if I show any sort of weakness.  I'm not really sure how I got to be that way, whether it was some sort of military discipline instinct or just something I think is a generally good attitude to have regardless.  Maybe it's because seeing other people slack off when the going gets rough always really bothered me.  The whole idea of being "hardcore" back in the marching band days.  The people in the group who weren't, who really didn't care...it was always a big issue.  But that's just how it is, in life -- everyone's here for different reasons, and they all work in different ways.  Hopefully, you find yourself in situations where you can cooperate with the people around you and feel comfortable.  Every once in a while you don't, though, and I guess that sort of happened this weekend?  Sometimes it's not malicious but rather, just unfortunate.

So uh...I guess that all was a really roundabout way of saying that this weekend was kind of unfortunate.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Life has continued to be pretty good these days...


Took another crew out to the deep for Space Alert and we managed to successfully complete all of our missions, including a hilarious SNAFU where we managed to end the mission with the right side of our ship completely falling apart and two of us knocked out by a plasmatic fighter...

DJed for FNW again yesterday!  Man it is really warm these days, sometimes I forget since I'm always indoors with A/C at home now (spoiled...).  It wasn't as stressful as last time, maybe I was just nervous that day or something *shrug*.  Anyways, my next gig will be JaSmix, going to make sure to cram all of the best songs into my set for that of course!

I've started trying to work on my JaSmix workshop as well.  Thinking about teaching these things has actually definitely given me the impetus to actually improve my dancing, which was sort of a pleasant surprise.  I guess it's as good of a motivation as any to try something a bit different with my dance and really explore it so that I can talk about it effectively.  Well, hopefully anyways.  We'll see how it goes.

Was really happy with my OHC entry this past week, had a sort of System Shock 2 vibe going with some neat rhythmic filtered pads.  (Speaking of System Shock 2, been thinking about going back and finishing that Ponterbee Station playthrough...)  I've started on the next composition on my plate which is another VGM remix -- that one is coming along, but fairly slowly, which is slightly concerning, but I guess not all of these can be things that I knock out in a single hour...

Studied Puyo a bit for PPT and it's definitely been more than good enough to cover my butt when I totally screw up in Tetris and fail to do anything meaningful lol.  There's still a lot of experience that I need on both sides to really understand a lot of effective play though.  Sometimes in Tetris I still just sort of blindly downstack without really doing anything effective.

The other week I was thinking a lot about tactics games and why Tactics Ogre really impressed me, even though in some aspects it was less "cool" than FFT.  I went and looked at some FFT mods actually, seeing if there was anything that was maybe worth playing through, but in the end decided not to.  I think the thing about Tactics Ogre (or, the One Vision mod specifically), is that it really managed to bring "Tactics" to the genre, which I appreciated.  In these tactics games, both class design and equipment choices should always be about tradeoffs and specialization.  It doesn't make sense to have a unit that is a jack-of-all-trades because you can only do a single thing per turn, so specialization is the name of the game.  But there always needs to be strengths that are balanced out by weaknesses, and each unit needs to have a defined role.  There can be mages that have high magical attack, but really weak defense.  That creates the need for knights which are really good at defending squishy units -- and in Tactics Ogre they even come with movement-inhibiting abilities that prevent enemies from just waltzing right past them and attacking your squishy mages.  But then you've also got archers which can attack the mages from afar without having to deal with the knights, but only if they have good positioning.  Again, it's all about tradeoffs.  That's an area where FFT definitely falls short -- FFT is more about just making cool combos and doing the most damage with everyone.  In FFT if you deal more damage, you do more damage to EVERYTHING, and class and equip configs just become a matter of who can out-DPS everything else and have the speed to apply it.  In Tactics Ogre on the other hand, you have Ninjas that can dual-wield daggers/katanas, which are excellent against squishy targets like mages and archers.  So the ninja is this specialized assassin unit whose role is to use high mobility to take out the high priority targets, and use high evasion and one-time defensive abilities to avoid getting killed along the way.  But ninjas can't really do nearly as much damage to tanky knights, because knights have a lot of defense, and that defense gets applied to BOTH of the hits of your dual-attack.  So what do you do if you need to take out these heavy knights?  Well, you either need mages, or you need a berserker unit that can wield a massive two-handed hammer/maul to chunk through their defense.  Again, more specialization.  Even in unit formations, there are tradeoffs -- you want to have your tanky frontline units surrounding/protecting your DPS dealers in the back, and you don't want to just leave holes in your formation everywhere, but at the same time if you clump everyone up that's just asking to be hit by AoE magic spells.  Tradeoffs!  That kind of thing is just not possible in FFT since you only have 5 units or so...

I finally got a "god run" in risk of rain 2 with Rex, and unlocked the final achievement, so now I've unlocked everything in the entire game!  It started off with an early 57-leaf-clover (best item in the game) and ended up spiraling way out of control when I got another 57-leaf-clover, some other good items, a ceremonial dagger, shaped glass, etc.  The early game was a bit stressful since Rex needs very careful HP management, but once I got to a certain point the shaped glass + ceremonial dagger was just sort of decimating everything and I also found a teddy bear printer and got myself 13 teddy bears so I had a ton of evasion as well.  After a while I ended up stacking FOUR shaped glass so I was now dealing 1600% damage and things were just melting even with just my auto-attack (not even my secondary attack!).  It got to the point where the ceremonial daggers would just insta-kill everything that spawned, including the teleporter bosses, and I basically only ever had to attack at the very beginning of a level to get things started.  Pretty insane.  Even after leaving my computer running overnight (perched in a safe spot), I was still pretty much instantly killing everything.  The only thing that could possibly kill me is Happiest Mask, which is currently bugged and sometimes the ghosts actually end up attacking (and dealing damage to) you for some reason.  So after getting bored, that's how I ended up going out.  (Would have liked to go to a shrine of order at some point for the lulz, but didn't find one.)

Went to see the 3rd Hibike movie a couple weeks ago....it was good, enjoyable, but certainly not up to the level of either of the anime seasons, nor Liz and the Blue Bird.  I think there were some really interesting feelings that got evoked with how much things changed, and how inconsequential some things seemed when put into the perspective of transience (or maybe that's just how I feel about everything)...at the same time it feels like the movie was not really saying that much, and some of the themes really felt very muddled, especially when compared to some things that happened in earlier seasons that were very very very strong.  Their performance was certainly beautifully rendered, I'll give you that...

Monday, July 15, 2019

It's been half a month...sorry!

Let's see here...

My new mechanical keyboard
Is a joy to type on.  For reference, it's a Pink Filco Majestouch 2 with cherry MX 'brown' switches and it looks just beautiful.  I've really gotten used to the feeling of the keys and there's definitely this feeling of tactile satisfaction that just....still makes me just want to press on the keys randomly every once in a while.  The Razer Basilisk has been working out pretty well too -- I think the only thing I wish I could do is configure the media keys to respond or not respond to certain apps (too often it tries to control a youtube video in chrome or whatever instead of foobar running in the background) but it's not a huge deal.  Having a modifier click + mouse wheel as volume adjustment is way more useful than I would have thought -- really glad I decided to map that combo.

Dear Toki
Is the game I ended up putting out for Friendship Jam and people seem to have enjoyed it!  It's a short text-based game about writing letters to reconnect to a long-lost friend and you can play it here.

pCloud as a replacement for Dropbox
Has more or less been working OK, though I've found that the automatic syncing function feels quite a bit slower than directly working with the pCloud drive network-mapped folder.  That might warrant some changes in how I organize things and what files/folders I'm choosing to make available offline, but I'm going to have to do some experimentation to know for sure.  It could be that I always grab things from pCloud Drive (?? not sure if that will work well for mapping my desktop folder to it) but use the make available offline option...

Risk of Rain 2
Has continued to be pretty enjoyable as I just continue to do random runs on Monsoon difficulty.  I've actually just unlocked two new items -- the guilliotine and the royal capacitor, both of which are actually very very good items, so that may actually have an impact on my runs moving forward.

Puyo Puyo / Tetris
I've gotten slightly better at Puyo, but most of my random practice has actually been maintaining 4-wide combos in Tetris, which has just been...a fun little mindless thing to practice every now and then.

Dance stuff
I'll be teaching a styling workshop this Saturday (come out to the GCC and join us!) and am also continuing to put things together for JaSmix next month (woo!)

Life
Overall is continuing to go pretty well these days.  I had a lot of things that I felt like I needed to take care of these past couple of weeks, yet I also managed to take care of a lot/most of them, I feel like.  I had a couple of music commissions to work through, for example, and I knocked them out extremely quickly (being able to work fast is really a blessing).  Even taking care of a bunch of random adulting stuff like new insurance plans, replacing car air filters, blahblahblahblah.......

Cooking
I'm somewhat inspired to try shui zhu yu yet again (lol) by a recent visit to a sichuan restaurant (I want to try and do better than them), but actually my most recent cooking experiment has been sous vide BBQ pork ribs cooked for 36 hours which actually turned out pretty great!  I made them a bit on the salty side because I used a bit more dry rub than recommended in the recipe (oops) but they were very tender at 145 degrees and weren't really a ton of work either.  Definitely something I'd endeavor to try again.

Kiki
I thought about Kiki a lot last week.  I still love her deeply, that is plain as day to me.  Though it's a bit sad, I think it's also a bit of a relief.  That that aspect of me perhaps may never change.  When something was once so important to you, that you can't help but keep it close to you, even if you didn't try at all.

Space Alert
I took a new crew out to The Deep for a try at some sessions of Space Alert this past weekend, to a surprising great success!  As usual I was the acting captain on our Sitting-Duck class ship, along with our chief engineer who had flown a couple missions out to The Deep in the past; the other two were newbie cadets straight out of the academy and we had to show them the ropes and bring them up to speed...I probably ended up barking out a bunch of orders to them during our simulation missions, but they had good instincts, at least for rookies -- they communicated their actions more clearly than my previous squad had, and they even shot some extra laser charges towards the end of the mission just in case.

I woke up in the cloning vat two days after and came to the realization that our first live mission had failed.  Unsurprising, but I still grimaced when I looked at the black box recording and realized what had happened -- in the heat of the action, both of our rookies had tripped -- one was trying to get port side and slammed right into the firing console for the main laser before picking herself up and limping the rest of the way.  I reprimanded them a bit afterwards, but one of them had managed to fix a fissure on that side of the ship with the battlebots and interceptors, so I admitted I had to give them some credit.

We ended up having 3 successful missions into The Deep, one with only a single scratch on our armor by a grazing attack, no less, making it my most successful new crew yet.  We even tried our luck at one of the longer missions out by the nebula, though as quickly as we moved, it wasn't quite enough to handle the constant barrage of threats.

Still, I had to count my blessings after it was all over.  Thinking on the missions also made me question the tools I bring with me on every mission -- I've always known how to work the pulse cannon better than anyone; if you've got an extra fuse and know where to poke the console, you can overload the safety threshold on the phase capacitor and extend the range out to match that of the other laser cannons.  But lately I've been wondering if I should perhaps pack my Special Ops equipment instead, or maybe a crescent wrench that I could use to jury-rig the rocket launcher like ol Yoshiko used to.  I'll have to think on it, for sure...