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  1. Each month we interview a First Officer or Commanding Officer of the fleet as part of our “First Officer in Focus” and “Captain’s Corner” columns to get to know them better, and learn more about what their positions entail. This month, we’re interviewing the First Officer of the starship USS Veritas, Lt. Commander Sky Blake, a Brekkian/Betazoid hybrid female. GALVEN: Tell us a little about the writer behind Blake. Where do you hail from, and what are you up to when you’re not simming? BLAKE: I live in Australia, and when I am not simming, I am studying as a cloud student for a Bachelor of Arts. I earned my Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing in 2019, where I was also able to edit and publish a fairly hefty student anthology of works, as well as put together a demo memoir I released that November. Between writing and reading for my degree and simming, I also consume a fairly unhealthy amount of Netflix, AnimeLab, Playstation games, and iced coffee. Tell us more about your writing style. What’s your process for putting together a sim? It depends on how much time I have. If I’m on a tight schedule, I’ll actively look for Blake-specific tags, throw them into a Gmail draft and focus on adding dialogue first, then examine the scene more closely for Blake’s physicality — ie. how is she presenting herself, how is she feeling, is she cold, etc — reactionary type things. After that, I go back through and do a basic edit alongside a pass with ProWritingAid and send. That usually takes me about 15 minutes to a half hour. On a good day when I can spend up to hours working on a sim, I work properly on narration, backstory and thoughts. I can double check to see if everyone has been included in a scene and add relevant tags for those who may not be. These sims will typically be much longer than my rush jobs, have been formatted properly, edited, and may have about three times more the narration. According to Blake’s professional history wiki page, she was the USS Avander’s chief of security/second officer in 2389 and then the USS Veritas’ first officer the first time in 2393. What was the experience like transitioning from second officer (2O) to FO? It’s been almost a decade since I was Avandar’s 2O — the way the position was treated back then is different to how it is now. I feel that 2Os today get a bit more of a presence in the command staff than they did back then. I definitely wouldn’t say I transitioned between those two positions, mainly because when I held them each for the first time, they were not in a period close together. After Avandar, I didn’t serve as Vigilant or Garuda’s second officer. I became Invicta’s XO as Kinan Venroe/Tristam Core when Fleet Captain Rahman (then-Commander) took command. Invicta was my first outing as an XO, a few months before Veritas launched. I remember it being a very tumultuous few months: a lot happened, IC and OOC, and we were navigating that as the new kids on the block. Rahman already had the experience as an XO and was mentoring me through that. As second officer on Avandar, I was the IC back-up XO — there wasn’t much I did in the position outside of that, as there were no OOC tasks set for the 2O during that time, and most ships used it almost like an award of sorts. We’ve since strived to make something more important of it. I think the transition between being a second officer versus being first officer is dependent on your CO. Rahman and I work well together because we defined what my role as XO was going to be before I got it: I’m there to support him, it’s my job to make sure what he says goes — that’s an oversimplification of the XO role, though, and Rahman (and probably many other captains) would argue XOs do significantly more than that. On Veritas, on top of their IC position, we treat the 2O role as the rightful third person in the command structure — they’re there as another pair of eyes for command issues (assuming something cannot be solved directly through our ship staff list) and another face for crew to speak to. Looking back on your experience so far, what would be one piece of advice you’d give to anyone who’s just joined? The fleet offers a lot of out of character activities to participate in, but your highest priority should be having fun IC. Be here to have fun with the game, first. A lot of what you said reminds me back when I first joined and I was given you as my mentor which I can’t thank you enough for all the incredible advice and long emails that I still read when I need to look back on something. Where do you get that kind of insight from? Much of it comes from what my mentors sent to me. I didn’t start off with a mentor when I joined as an ensign — I only had one on Ronin and Mercury (decaphoebs ago at this point…), and since then, Rahman has been filling that role. My first mentor who was my Ronin/Mercury captain, set the scene for how I’ve treated my own mentees. He was very big on long emails that detailed everything I needed to know, usually with headers, because that’s how he felt it was best to communicate with me (I’m not sure if that’s how he was with everyone, I didn’t get to see him mentor others). So I’d use those emails like a handbook to refer back to in future. There have been and will continue to be times where I need advice from other mentors on how to approach something that’s come up, and that’s why the ship staff is there. Outside of this, my advice or guides for other people come from a place of self-ownership. I have matured significantly over the course of my being in 118, and with that comes a lot of understanding. When you’re a ship XO, it is a little sobering to think on how much of a rascal you were and how much your own CO/XO had to deal with that back in the day. I am very much a believer that we learn best by making mistakes, and I try to encourage mistake-making — within reason, of course. Quite a bit of what I learned from you is how I mentor others and I appreciate that you still take the time to see how I’m doing. Have you experienced any kind of situation where the mentee starts becoming a mentor themselves? Veritas’ mentor system is managed by the XO — so when we get new members, it’s part of my job to assign them a mentor. I’ve been around for long enough to have or have seen people get mentors assigned to them, only for me to then assign them as mentors to new players. I’m genuinely proud to be a part of that — one of the LtJGs I championed for behind the scenes (don’t tell them that) now serves as an XO themselves. Two are currently weighing up their commander’s practicals. Another just hit LtCmdr. You’re currently serving as 2O of Ops. I was not directly a mentor for all of you, but when “one of ours” gets to where they want to be, and/or starts giving me advice, it reaffirms what I already know. It is not a bad thing to still receive advice as an LtCmdr and onward. As time goes by, your audience for sims and other types of emails change. Rahman and I are constantly talking about what we can do to make our sims better, what we need to improve on, etc. They’re important conversations to have as writers. Your mentor should be your first port of call when you’ve got something on your mind about the game. “Back in my day”, you were assigned one mentor, and that was it. If you transferred, you were essentially on your own (whereas, these days your new ship may assign a new mentor to you). My first mentor made it a habit to check in with me once or twice over the years, despite me not playing on his vessel. Sometimes it was just to touch base, others it was to talk about something being discussed on the forums. I think it’s important to keep that door open, regardless of rank. And lastly, it’s been 8 years since you were promoted to Lt. Commander. Do you have any aspirations to become a Commander and beyond? I am on the path to being a Commander. I think it’d be nice to drop the “Lieutenant” from “Lieutenant Commander” (though sometimes I fear players don’t realise how much of a sweet spot the Lieutenant rank is). I am not ultimately interested in being a CO — I feel confident as a supportive fleet staff member, and I’m happy as a collaborator on Veritas and what’s coming next after it. Thanks for your time, Lieutenant Commander Sky Blake! You can read more about Lieutenant Commander Blake on the wiki. The post First Officer in Focus – Sky Blake, USS Veritas appeared first on UFOP: StarBase 118 Star Trek RPG. View the full article
  2. This month, the Featured Bio Contest Team would like to shed a little more light on the process and the people behind the contest. As such, we'd like to introduce Deliera, aka Sky Blake of the USS Avandar, who sat down to answer some questions about both herself, the team, and the contest. Before we get to talking about the Featured Bio Contest itself, can you first tell us a little about yourself? My name's Deliera. I am Chief of Security on the USS Avandar, and I have been with StarBase 118 for almost two years, and for all of that time, I have never left the Security duty post. I am an Australian, and I am actually a music teacher IRL. How did you first get started editing the StarBase 118 Wiki? I started working with the wiki as soon as my wiki profile was created by the Challenger-A’s Science officer at the time, Yanell Delwyn. My first edit to my page was really just to fill in the parts that needed to be filled in. I did not know anything about the wiki, and I was lucky to keep it my character’s page neat... Were you familiar with using wikis or did you have to learn from scratch? I learned how to use the wiki the hard way: I was actually just cutting and pasting everything, and there is definitely no shame in doing that. Eventually, my experience with the wiki grew as I experimented with what looked good and how the links and templates worked and what other people did with their profiles. When the Challenger-A was decommissioned, and I was assigned to the USS Ronin, Commander Tallis–our commanding officer–worked with me to create what we called a "uniform profile", which was basically a template for a crew member of the ship and a sidebar template to use. We completed both, and when new officers arrived, I created their profiles and put in the templates. All they had to do was fill in their characters' information. Eventually, we managed to "convert" as many people's profiles as possible to that template. Besides initially setting up profiles for new ensigns, what else do you often edit on the wiki? I updated the crew roster, PNPC roster and crew history whilst on a few postings and even helped create some of the Mercury’s rosters. I have a little collection of my own character pages (around 20 PNPC pages, I think. Probably more...) that I try to keep up-to-date as much as I can, but Sky's immediate family (Sky herself, Sabor, and Faith) are the profiles that must be kept up-to-date. If they aren't current, there's usually a specific reason, whether that's because I don’t have the time, or something's a secret, or a plotline is still developing–there could be various different reasons. Why did you join the Featured Bio Contest team? One of the things that I really like about StarBase 118 is that there is always something to do, something to help out with, and there’s never usually someone saying "no you can’t do that" unless there’s a certain reason for it. The problem was, there was no team focused on character wiki pages – there are teams focused on species development, the wiki development, but I couldn't find a team that I was somewhat of an "expert" in–and I'm still not an expert in many areas of the wiki at the moment, but I do try my best to help. Unfortunately, I missed the very start of the Featured Bio Contest, as I was on a tour of the USA, but I received an email from the FBC’s facilitator saying that he’d like to use my character’s profile as an example profile. I said yes, and that I wanted to help out as much as I could, so helping out I am! What do you hope to achieve through the contest? I think the Featured Bio Contest is an absolute fantastic idea for those “wiki-geeks”, and I really do hope it inspires people to experiment with their character’s wikipages and to update them and add their own personality to them. There’s nothing better than a character profile that’s up-to-date, but more importantly, differs from other profiles in some way. All right, let's get to the big question on everyone's minds: what makes a good featured bio? Different people judge the profiles in their own way; thus, they’ll have their own different feedback for each profile. For me, a good featured bio is neat, updated, and has little to no missing information (i.e; no spaces with “describe this” still there), so really it’s about the presentation for me. Even a simple bio page that is just filled in with the basics but has a little “life” ticks the boxes for me, so long as they have a sidebar with a little color. You might come across a profile with plenty of information, heaps of images, and everything else meets the criteria, but it still may not become the Featured Winner because it’s not presented very well. You want to be able to absorb the person reading the profile, but not overload them with all this information in one area or a heap of images cluttering the page. So what's the process like? How do you pick them? What are you looking for? Team members have a look and read all the profiles that are nominated in the contest's forum. Usually, we look for everything stated in the selection criteria to tick all the boxes. If the minimum selection criteria isn’t met for some reason (e.g., missing categories, omitting the links to the list of awards and service ribbons pages), then the team notifies those who were nominated and tells them what criteria they didn’t meet so that they can add the missing information. Just by being nominated and approved by the team, a profile is a “winner”. A Featured Nominee automatically becomes an example of a good wiki profile and is listed in the table of Featured Articles. A Featured Winner (i.e., that month's "Featured Bio of SB118") is an additional step above a Nominee. To work out the Winner, all team members vote between all the articles. I, myself, don’t look for things in the selection criteria as all nominees have already ticked that box. Instead, I look for personal touches–how has the user presented their character images, how neat is their profile, how much detail do they put into each of their sections, things like that. For me, it’s the presentation and detail of the profile–it’s a really complicated balance, too. Too many and “uncoordinated” images make a profile look cluttered. Too much information in one section does the same thing. It’s what looks good, how they built up the profile, and what details they use, that tick the boxes for me. Are there any details you like or notice in particular? A good use of images to show off the character is a real soft spot for me. So is the personality and physical description of the character. These are things that “show” me what the character is like and give me an idea as to how they’d react to a situation, whether it’d be personal or professional. These are things that define our characters. Another thing that I really love is the very top of a character’s wikipage. The “opening sentence” of a wikipage and the sidebar of a wikipage. There are so many different ways these are presented around the fleet, and it shows a lot of different personality for me. A short description of the character’s name, rank, species, duty post and ship into one sentence, followed by a good image of the character and little bits of good information well-presented starts a wikipage off fantastically. Are there things you think people commonly miss or neglect? One of the minimum criteria to be nominated is to include the List of Awards and Service Ribbons links. Many profiles we’ve seen nominated don’t have these links, which is rather frustrating. You have an absolutely fantastic profile nominated, only for the profile to not meet one of the minimum criteria; the reasons we have these links is to show what the award is usually for, and it’s a shame to see it ignored. [Ed. Note: The Featured Bio Contest Team has created a template you can add to your wiki pages under the appropriate awards section that will add these links for you. Just add {{awardlinks}} and you're set. If you have any questions, just ask!] How do you approach your own bios that you write? Since creating the personnel page template and sidebar, I just use that. They’re mostly retired now, as its “popular demand” subsided on my previous postings, but I still use it for my own PNPCs and NPCs. So really, I cheated–now all I have to do is just stick two templates onto a page and fill out the info. But even with the template, it’s a *must* to have a good description of the character’s physical appearance, personality and family. Without that key information, the profile is nowhere near complete. In closing, do you have any advice to those entering the contest? There is no such thing as a bad bio. The whole point of the wiki is to add data–the point of character profiles is to add the character’s details. Writers can do this however they want, and everything that happens to a profile is completely up to the writer. The Featured Bio Contest Team gives advice and suggestions, and we show what profiles are good examples, but it is up to the writers, and it is their choice on what looks best. We'd like to thank Deliera for taking the time to speak with us. As always, you can find out more about the Featured Bio Contest at its wiki page or in its forum. Be sure to drop by and submit your own nominations for the next round!
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