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How to Build a DIY Starship Simulator

I’ll never forget the day I walked into the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center as a starry-eyed twelve-year-old. I was a NASA enthusiast and a chronic sci-fi fanatic. I knew all the Star Trek lore up through the Next Generation, and I could quote the original Star Wars trilogy by heart. I knew that the Space Center was named after Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher who was on the Challenger VII shuttle when it exploded one minute into flight sixteen years earlier.

 

After a mission briefing by the Director of the Space Center, we were taken through a “transporter” (a darkroom door) into the Galileo – one of the smaller Starship simulators, where we began our mission. I was the navigation officer. I had to steer the ship through a nebula to try and rescue a disabled alien ship, which turned out to be a ship full of Klingon drug mules that turned on us. After dodging several photon torpedoes and coordinating closely with the tactical officer, we destroyed the enemy ship and returned to Federation Space victorious, having not only survived the ordeal but also shut down a major drug ring that was plaguing the Klingon empire, improving otherwise tense relations within the quadrant.

 

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I was floored! To say that this was the most thrilling experience of a young geek’s life to date would not be hyperbole. How many hours had I spent fantasizing about cruising the galaxy at warp speed to seek out new life and new civilizations? My imagination was stimulated – a seemingly hopeless fantasy finally realized. The experienced was diminished only slightly by the technological limitations of the day. The Gallileo’s “control panels” were really cheaply-designed software on an old iMac G3. Any Trekkie knew that what the ship really needed was screen-accurate touchscreen controls. But that technology was only in its infancy in an age that still hadn’t fully escaped VHS tapes and dial-up modems.

 

With all the drama in the headlines, it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come since then. For DIY-minded geeks like myself, the fantasy of a screen-realistic space adventure isn’t limited by 90’s technology or the whims of the Space Center Director. You have all the tools at your disposal to create your own Starship Simulator for the ultimate gaming experience!

 

The Bridge

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A screen-realistic command deck requires a space large enough for a captain, a navigation officer, an engineer, and a tactical officer, bare minimum. The latter three should have a control console, but all the captain needs is a comfy chair. Depending on the complexity of the missions you want to design, you might also incorporate a science officer, a communications officer, and marines or security personnel. Ideally, a multi-teared space such as a home theater room could provide the frame for the bridge. Alternatively, if you are confident in electronics and air-conditioning, you could build your bridge into an exterior fort or treehouse.

 

The Controls

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Tablet technology and the ubiquity of fan-built apps makes this once unconquerable hurdle much more manageable. Apps such as LCARS 47 run well enough on a Tablet PC. Alternatively, ADT Touchscreen Keypads lend a certain verisimilitude to the experience. Ideally, you want to set up a system to monitor and mirror the controls from a central location, so that you can manage the mission in real time. You’ll want to set up a microphone with voice-altering tools like Voxal broadcasting into your bridge, so that you can act as the computer or allies or villains on other ships. Finally, you should set up a large LED TV at the front of the bridge, tied to a graphics interface you control. This will serve as the crew’s main visual reference for what is happening outside the ship.

 

Boarding or Landing

If you want your mission to involve crew detachments leaving the bridge and exploring an alien world or an eerily abandoned space vessel, you need not be a world-class set designer. VR technology is becoming accessible enough that you could design your own 3D environments for your crew to walk around and explore. 3D Modeling is still a complicated, labor-intensive process, but the result can be immersive and flexible. Free tools exist for designing these environments to wow your crew with strange and unbelievable worlds. If you’re feeling really ambitious, pair your Daydream View VR Headset with a CPR Mask to create space suit helmets for your crew. Just tell them not to wear the red shirt.

 

The Weapons

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Weapons for your mission can be very easy or very painstaking depending on the level of screen accuracy you’re looking for. On the easy side, Nerf guns and Super Soakers work great. If you want them to be a little less comic-book feeling, airbrush and spray paint the components silvers, blacks, and greys. For more screen-accurate weapons, novelty toys can be purchased, or DIY Prop Shop has some great DIY tutorials.

 

The Mission

Design of the mission is by far the most challenging piece of the simulator experience. The critical piece of mission design is the impressiveness of the experience, which requires each crew member to be constantly engaged. Everyone must have some task or crisis that requires their position. Maybe during warp speed, an antimatter explosion threatens the warp core, and the engineer must find a way to bypass the core to avoid a meltdown. Maybe the communications officer intercepts a coded transmission and must decipher it. Keep the captain engaged by constantly placing him or her in difficult situations that require courage and decisiveness to manage. This series of crises should follow a basic Aristotelian plot curve, in order to maximize the emotional impact of the narrative. At the same time, the story arc has to be a little bit responsive, because the crew is actually in command of the ship and should be able to control the direction of the narrative. All this immersiveness must be balanced against the difficulty of managing and multitasking on the back end, which can be labor intensive.

 

Space really is the final frontier. The explorer’s spirit is alive and well in the rising generation. A starship simulator is a lot more than a fun DIY project – it’s a way to get your kids excited about science and technology. Despite increasing competition on the world stage, the United States is still the world hub for innovation. If we hope to maintain that status, we need more students pursuing careers in the STEM fields – especially girls. We don’t do that with grants, quotas, and subsidies; we do it by exciting the imagination the way my imagination was excited in that 2002 Space Center. We can inspire the next generation to boldly go where no one has gone before.

The Love of God’s Power

God is faithful. We’ve all heard these words. We’ve read them, said them, and sung them. And we’ve felt themGod’s faithfulness is a palatable experience of his love. It’s his love tasted and seen in our history. It’s the mechanics of his love wired to fulfill his promises for our good. In fact, God’s faithfulness and his steadfast love are so closely intertwined that in Psalm 33 they’re basically the same.

5 Things “Law and Order” Got Wrong About Criminal Justice

Television shows like Law and Order are a formula that has successfully entertained Americans for decades. Everyone loves a good crime story, and everyone wants to see the bad guy get what is coming to him or her in the end. While this makes for good television, it’s not necessarily the way it always works out in real life. Here are five examples of things that shows like “Law and Order” get wrong about law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Celebrate A Simpler Life With Solitude

Solitude, a short game about abandoning your old life and becoming a shepherdess, is all about leaving the things that don’t make you happy behind. This is accomplished by walking through colorful, slightly surreal dioramas and clicking on things, which in itself is nice and calming. There’s also understated music, bleeping and blooping away most pleasurably in the background, and sheep are frolicking about as you slowly turn into a shepherdess.

All of this is delightfully strange and carries a nice message. You see, on your way to become more at peace with yourself, you have to help other people. These then turn into sheep and follow you, which… is a bit weird, actually. But then, so is the rest of Solitude.

The shepherding is not only a wonky metaphor or Jana Reinhardt’s personal escapism fantasy. It works on so many levels, from a simple “back to nature” thing to more complex ideas about society and even Christianity, if you want. Whatever you might read into the game, Solitude is a delight and totally worth the 15 minutes or so you’ll spend on it.

 

Meet Platinum Games’ NieR: Automata team!

PG game designer Takahisa Taura here. It was my pleasure to share some new information and footage from NieR: Automata at E3 2016! Today I’d like to go a step further and give you an up-close look into our development processes, and share some of the challenges that the team and I have faced on this project. We hope you enjoy this taste of what it’s like on our side of the screen.

Bayonetta 2 Second Anniversary amiibo Announcement!

I’m afraid that this little taste is all I can give you right now, since we’re still working hard to get her just right. But I assure you that we’re going to capture everything you know and love about Bayonetta – every detail down to the exact sizes of her glasses and eyes – and bring you an amiibo that’ll meet your every expectation.

Arcade Mode: Deus Ex

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is very nearly upon us, and what better way to get hyped for the new game than looking back at what made Deus Ex great by revisiting the original game and Human Revolution! Way back when, had a legendary team of developersand other huge old-school PC gaming names, Ion Storm formed a new studio based.

The first game this team produced was Deus Ex, released in 2000. Deus Ex was a seminal title, simply based around the fact that the game was hugely open-ended, featuring branching dialogue paths and a variety of gameplay options (Never upgrade Swimming, though) – Deus Ex was incredibly ahead of its time, and it took a good decade or so before other games caught up to the scope that Deus Ex had at the turn of the century. Ion Storm produced a sequel; Invisible War several years later. But after that, the series had been dormant until Eidos Montreal took control of the series.

This team’s first game was a return to form for the Deus Ex franchise, featuring a new setting, time and protagonist. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution you play as Adam Jensen, a security officer searching for a scientist who had been kidnapped, who also happened to be his Fiance. Human Revolution combined this with a now iconic Black and Gold look to portray a sense of technological renaissance and bring into question the nature of Transhumanism- a central theme in the Deus Ex series, blending together human augmentations alongside technological advancement by grafting on enhanced limbs that exceed traditional human capabilities.

After an event in the events of Human Revolution, the new title, Mankind Divided is poised to pick the conversation right back up, with augmented humans being marginalised by the rest of society for their reliance upon technology for basic function. Set in Prague, Mankind Divided also brings back the colour palette, more muted and dour to reflect the approach to the game’s new story arcs.

Featuring massively open-ended gameplay styles alongside a brand-new upgrade tree, you can choose to play the role of Adam Jensen however you want, whether that be an all guns blazing approach or a more unseen, stealth look. Mankind Divided is shaping up to be a worthy successor to the legendary Deus Ex name, and we can’t wait to play the new entry in the series.

Top 5 Battleborn Heroes

The minds that brought you Borderlands are here with a new Hero-shooter, Battleborn. We’ve had the chance to go into 2K’s secret bunker in Windsor and take an exclusive sneek-peek at the game.

GODSANDHEROES

Rome Rising is a mature, full-scale, action-adventure, massively multiplayer online role-playing game that immerses the audience in Roman mythology.

Players strap on gladiator armor, lay waste to monsters and command minions while seeking favor from the gods.

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