A is for Artemis

Artemis LogoA few months ago, I had a group of friends over. Usually we just sit around and socialize, sometimes we play a board games or watch a movie but this time we did something different…. we played Artemis.

So what is Artemis? Well its a multi-player Starship Bridge Simulator where each player is assigned a different station (played on a PC or iPad) of a Starship Bridge. For instance there are helm, weapons, sensor, comms and engineering stations. One player is the Captain who gets to give the orders.

The aim of the game is to work together to complete Artemis’s mission.

Incredibly geeky I know and I wasn’t sure the group (especially the wives) would be into Atermis so after a couple of wines I floated the idea of trying out Artemis and showed them this video clip as an into…

YouTube Preview Image


Surprisingly everyone agreed to give it a go and so began the voyage of the plucky Artemis, her dysfunctional crew and their inept Captain.

Installation is pretty straight forward, after you purchase the software ($40 USD) you get an installer that run you on each of the player’s PCs (or laptops in our case). There is no licensing key and the developers rely on an honor system that you don’t share the installer outside of your 6 players. There are also a iPad and Android apps ($2.99 USD) that lets you use a tablet as a station.

One thing that you will need is one PC to act as the server. This PC also drives the view screen which lets the Captain see what is going on since they typically don’t have a PC (and as Captain you then get to yell out things like “Bring up Tactical on the view screen, Ensign Young”). My Dell Zino HTPC wired up to the living room 42-Inch LCD TV worked perfectly for this.

As a minimum you need three players to play: Captain, Helm and Weapons. Players can control more then one station but that often proves to be too tricky in the heat of battle. The game really shines when you have a full crew of 6 and all stations manned.

The game comes with a number of scripted missions but in its basic mode your mission is to just fend off waves of enemy ships that are trying to destroy you and your starbases. We have found that upping the difficultly level and setting the Sector setting to something other then “Barren” makes for quite an interesting game. You can also play in “Elite Co-Op” mode which lets a total of 6 ships (each with 6 players) play together which sounds like it would be awesome.

Over the last few months we have played with a number of different groups of people. I’ve been constantly surprised at how everyone gets drawn into the game (even the non Sci-Fi/geeky ones) and just how much fun it is. I would recommend that everyone give the game a go.

And just to set the record straight… the reason the Artemis was destroyed was that engineering did not fix the engines in time. It had nothing to do with the fact that I reversed the ship into the mine field we had just laid!

Update: Version 2.0 of Artemis was released last week and it features a ton of new features including:

  • Updated UI
  • Up to eight simultaneous bridges (48 players)
  • Full-fledged PVP mode, where any number of sides and teams can battle each other
  • Four new NPC non-combatant ships now ply the spacelanes, offering many new scenarios for Artemis crews.  These ships can be broken down, hijacked, blinded, held hostage, and more
  • Major AI and pathfinding improvements
  • Artemis ships play in real 3D now, with climb/dive controls (button, keyboard, and joystick).  Players can fly OVER a black hole, and come up underneath enemies

Review: Balsamiq Mockups

Ok let me start off by saying “I love this application”. It does exactly what it says on the box, it’s fast, easy to use and the results are impressive.

So what is it? Well it’s an application that lets you create mock-ups for websites, desktop apps and even iPhone apps.

For instance here are some mock-ups for the FDD tracking app that I’m working on. It took less then 20 minutes to put these together.

One of the best things about the tool is the “UI controls”. For instance if you drop a grid object on to your page and click on it, you get a text area into which you can type comma separated values. Each line of text becomes a row in the grid and each value becomes a cell. If you type [] you get a checkbox, [x] gives you a checked checkbox, [text] gives you a hyperlink of the word text. It couldn’t be easier.

Check out this video to see it action:

YouTube Preview Image

and some more examples.

Balsamiq Mockups is an Adobe Air application so it automatically updates when a new release is available. It also means that it runs on multiple platforms, I have seen it running on Windows and Mac os without issue.

Each screen that is created is stored in a separate XML based file. Most of the UI controls can be set to link to another screen, this along with the full screen mode, allows you to easily walk people through your mock-ups on screen.

You can also export your mock-ups as .png files. Unfortunately it does not export to PDF which would be nice.

The desktop version of the tool is $79 which gives you updates for life, which is not a bad deal at all. There are also versions for JIRA, Confluence and XWiki.

My only gripes are that sometimes it is tricky to select objects when they are layered on top of one another. Also there is no way to build your own smart UI controls although you can draw just about any GUI control using the supplied primitive objects.

If need to do any kind of mock-ups then I cannot reccommend this tool enough. Download an evalution copy and try it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.