Archive for October 8th, 2007

The Brief Journey of a New Recruit

October 08th, 2007 | Category: News

This is a brief story about my own experiences in joining the VE. I will be honest throughout, but will not use names. There will be good, there will be bad, but it will be honest. You may choose to learn from it and help fix the few issues that I have found, or you may ignore it and decide that I am not worth the effort.

I would like to say, though, that my experiences with joining are probably shared by many new recruits. So here it goes.

I was wandering around the net trying to find a good game that would use up some of my time, allow me some creative input, if possible, and not demand too much from me.

I was interested in Star Wars, and was tired of playing Pirate Games. I had applied for Star Wars Combine, but was turned down for what I felt was a stupid reason: I don’t have (at least don’t use) a paid e-mail service. I have one with my Internet account, but by the time I was able to get into it I had already learned the basics of this group.

What I found was not a game, but an RPG story group, the Vast Empire. I was looking for some immediate gratification when roaming the net for a good group, but was willing to give this a few days because I saw that there was some type of economy involved (e.g. the stock market, store, paychecks, etc.) and that thought and effort had been heavily placed in this group.

I was somewhat confused as to what I was supposed to do (ok very confused) but decided to wade through it. I applied, waited, posted, read 20 emails in my box, all the while wondering what I was really supposed to be doing.

I finally found the Echelon training board, and proceeded to post my arrival. Over the next few days I tried to figure out the system. It appeared that I had to go through several ranks, but when I was done I would have a good idea of what I was doing. There would be some type of reference manual that would answer my questions, Mirc would allow real time interaction with people, and there was a storyboard for further character development.

I thought that this was a great idea, and it was just what I needed to get started well. I thought that perhaps we would do a practice story, build our writing skills, and learn the basics. It would be fun, but it would also be a real honor when we graduated, because we would no longer be n00bs. I anticipated my first experiences in Echelon with great hopes and pleasure.

I waited and checked, and checked and waited, and never saw another Echelon post that concerned me, or my next objective. I was disappointed and was close to just dropping the whole thing to go back to something else. At least I knew what to do on my Pirate Games.

After a few communications where I expressed confusion at what I was to do, I was sent an email that said to write a bio, with a link to a great bio for an example. I was thrilled to finally have something to do. I wrote a bio until 3 that morning, even though I had to go to work early the next day. I was excited at finally being able to participate.

The next day or so I was sent an email that said that I had graduated Echelon (even though I had only posted my “reporting for Duty” line, and nothing else) and was now a PFC and assigned to a squad. I had hoped to go through Echelon training, as I felt that it would give me a good understanding of the basics, but I was very excited at finally being a part of VE, even though I still didn’t know what we did.

As I tried to find myself on the squad roster I noticed that there were several squads that didn’t have enough troopers. I wondered why these squads weren’t condensed together to make several fully functional squads, and several empty ones for fill later. Not my concern I guess. I just assumed that there were reasons such as the probability that there could be more stories going on at once.

My first time on the Mirc was confusing at best. There were a few jerks around, and I was being one of them, because when I went in, there were endless streams of baseball talk, haggling of other players, and almost nothing to do with Star Wars or VE. It has since been my experience that this is just the way that the Mirc is, and that SW and VE talk isn’t so prevalent as someone talking about another topic.

The few times there has been VE talk, it has usually surrounded another current or former VE member getting slammed for stuff that probably shouldn’t be said in public, or at least not without them being around to defend themselves. I personally feel that if a member is no longer a member, then their name shouldn’t be brought up for purposes of ragging him/her in the public chat. Again, I am simply voicing my own opinion, and it is not anyone’s responsibility to respond to my own frustrations.

I received an email from my squad leader and later ran into him on the Mirc. Still not quite knowing what to do, I just explored the site, and all of the links, and tried to piece it together. Whenever I had a question, I asked it in the Mirc, and usually got berated for my troubles. This often led to me having brief quarrels with certain members, a few of whom I have since learned are pretty much just jerks anyway, but several of whom I learned were just taking their frustrations about the slightly shoddy system out on the n00b.

Upon my explorations throughout the site, I saw a very frank letter of resignation, in which there was a lot said that perhaps shouldn’t have been, and about five pages of people biting at each other. I didn’t know who any of these people were, but I chocked up my own difficult experiences with getting started to the same troubles that caused this giant argument.

I decided that the people behind VE actually cared about the group, as testified by all of the effort on the site, but that there were a few housekeeping issues and some things had been set aside and forgotten about. There were many pieces to try and figure out about.

I learned that there are whole sections that are unfilled, several squads without enough members, and postings that are a little out of date, and in some cases misleading posts on the homepage.

I learned that you can get IC’s from using Pay Per Click, and that there were only five openings in the VE Today for writers and that they paid 25 IC’s per word.

In the Mirc I was questioning the start of my squads’ story. There was a promised story coming and I was anxious to get into the swing of things on a quick assignment. I was given a Spec Story by one of the few people to be consistently nice to me in the Mirc lobby, and got started quickly, as I knew that I had limited time before my squad story and wanted to get it out of the way. I have written 4 or 5 spec stories now, a total of about 8000 words or so in the three weeks or so that I have been here,

I had had a few compliments on my Bio, and my Spec Story and decided that I could write a decent line of interesting crap every now and then, so I applied for the VE Today. I started at 5 IC’s a word. I was happy to be involved in the group, and that I finally had something to do besides write Spec Stories.

I got to thinking a few days later, after posting a few more stories on VE Today, and remembered the wage that was posted on the homepage. I went to the Mirc silently steaming, and waiting to talk to my boss. I was frustrated that I would be given such a wage per word when the homepage said 25 IC’s! I didn’t even have to follow a link to see the real wages that everyone was getting! Again, the same person who gave me my Spec Assignment steered me to the hidden entries in the ComNet that stated the real rates, and how to get a raise. The system seemed fair, you start out at a low wage, write enough words, you get a raise per word. No problem! You are able to earn increase and promo through doing what you were supposed to do anyway! That was a great idea. My problem wasn’t the wrong wage after all, it was that the article on the homepage said another price, was way outdated and not removed.

Later, I looked into the Engineering Corps, as my Spec Story is for Combat Engineer training and I though the two may be related (again, not enough explanation, and no reference book). I looked through the somewhat stagnant engineering corps, and saw that it was sort of a relic. It is not functional, apparently hasn’t been for some time, and the VE Today is apparently the only still functioning part. Why is it still there? Should it be removed until life can again be breathed into it? Not for me to say.

I have made a few friends here. I like the idea of the VE. It seems like a great big place that everyone can get together and hang out, talk about their favorite subjects, and share in a great experience. I have felt a sense of creativity wake in me that otherwise would have continued to be stifled in lieu of school and family life.

I did have a very tough time trying to get the hang of the system. I have been her for about three weeks and still no squad story. I truly feel that it is likely hard certain members to get motivated to squeeze out a story because they have been here while this Empire has wavered. I do not blame them for their writer’s block, but I assign an equal portion of their lack of a story to everyone in the VE, just like I do with every other problem I see. These “shares of fault” do include me, because, even though I have not been here long, I have not stated my issues with these problems before now.

There were many obstacles that I felt could have been removed or shouldn’t have been there. If it were my VE, I would definitely change some things. Removing out of date items and making it easier for new people to participate would be priority #1, then making the leftovers functional again. But it is not only my VE. I am a part, yes. I like it enough to put up with the troubles, or I wouldn’t be here. But it is your VE too. I would really like to see an honest effort to overhaul the site by everyone. How can the site be better? What were your own experiences? What is good about VE, what could be changed?

What can you personally do to fix it?

It would be a great effort on all involved to overhaul the site. There would be many people who were dissatisfied, but in the end, I think that it would pay off.

It is easy to assign blame. It can always be someone else’s fault. But it is much harder to assume responsibility.

Effectively, any trouble is everyone’s fault, and everyone’s responsibility. If you have had no trouble with the way things go, then this article is not for you. If, on the other hand, if you have ever thought to yourself: “I wish this worked differently,” then this article is for you.

I am hereby formally petitioning a request for all able bodied men and women to come up with a solution to the problem that bothers you most about the VE, and turn it in to the most appropriate ranking member. Notice here that I said “solution to the problem.” Telling someone about a problem never works. They would be crushed under the strain of every member complaining, it would turn into a fuss-fest, and nothing would be solved.

Even though I have only been here for three weeks, and haven’t even started a squad story yet, it is my VE. It is my responsibility, as it is yours, to make it better. So what shall we do? I am willing to help. Thank you for reading, and for caring about your VE.

P.S. I am turning my own solution suggestions in very soon. Thanks.

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Building Contractors Love the Empire?

October 08th, 2007 | Category: News

You’re on a mission, you creep silently through the enemy base, dispatching any soul unlucky enough to cross your path. The halls are dim, the power long since cut by Team Beta, the only light source is the security checkpoint you’re moving towards. Your squad leader calls a halt, you have to find away around the checkpoint. One of your faceless comrades points to the ceiling, your squad leader nods and points at you, you let your weapon drop to your side and move over to the vent, one of your number gives you a boost and you crawl in.

It’s a proven fact that 87.32348% of all missions involving indoor environments enjoy a great reduction in completion time thanks to ventilation systems. Anyone who has been in the Vast Empire Stormtrooper Corps knows this. Every Trooper that has been here for any amount of time has spent a good deal of that time crawling though cramped but conveniently placed ventilation shafts. The convenient placing, size and lack of security equipment in said shafts makes the job of every soldier that has ever had to storm a base just a little bit easier.

Without having to engage the enemy as often or deal with locked doors or having to navigate confusing, winding hallways a missions time can be cut from half a day to a mere pair of hours. Where as all rebel hallways suffer from a lack of directions and guest signs it’s a well known fact that every ventilation system comes complete with maps every few intersections written in an easy to read large print and color coding.

Ventilation shafts have a plethora of methods for use. They can be used to escape imprisonment, get around a secure door, move about a building without alerting the enemy and for throwing really uncomfortable bachelor parties. Such luxuries with the New Republic bases has lead some of our more adventurous troops to attempt similar stunts around the Vast Empire infrastructure. However I feel it is my duty to inform the galaxy that it just doesn’t work the same. Our ventilation shafts are too small for an armored man, the grates are too difficult to get off without ruining the wallpaper and they just weren’t designed to hold that kind of weight, what is most likely to happen should one try it is that they will fall through the ceiling and become lodged in the piece of duct work. This would be awkward to explain should an MP or an officer happen by and could land an unfortunate trooper in the stockade.

Now your average soldier is merely thankful that such vents were so conveniently placed, but how many stop to thank the poor contractor that put it all together? He’s just an average working man (or creature) who may not have been able to pass the physical, or they finished their tour of duty, or possibly even a member of the underground resistance. But whoever they are they are showing their Imperial Pride and doing their part to aide in the march to the core. So next time you see a being walking down the street or in a bar who is obviously not part of the military try to refrain from calling them hippies and berating them for not joining the war effort. Instead buy him a drink and thank him for the color coded maps. Who knows, he might actually know what you’re talking about.

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