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Author Topic: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout  (Read 6025 times)

Giovanni Blasini

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JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« on: 12 November 2014, 21:34:34 »
JumpShip of the Month:  Bright Star Auto Scout



It's another month, and time for another JumpShip of the Month article.  This is one I've been both eager and dreading doing for a while, but it's the next one in chronological order, so here we go.

The Bright Star is an odd duck, one introduced to us in Experimental Technical Readout: Boondoggles.  And "boondoggle", perhaps, is the right word for the Bright Star...though maybe not.

The Terran Hegemony was, in the early 26th Century, still looking to explore, but were concerned about risking human life doing it.  So, they went to Ulsop Robotics, a company specializing in...well, robotics.

Why Ulsop?  Because they came through for the Hegemony before, designing and building the Eagle-Eye 12 targeting and tracking system and Ulsop AI Surveillance Computer, both of which were used by the Vincent class corvette.  Yeah, think on that for a moment.  Hopefully no one named their Vincent's computer "Hal"". Or "Glados".  Or "Skynet".

So, going back to Ulsop for a more extensive system for their new scout JumpShip made sense.  The end result of Ulsop's efforts were a 60,000 ton automated standard core JumpShip, one that admittedly looked more like an ultra-compact WarShip, that used the Smart Robotic Control System instead of a human crew.  It's important to note that this is not a brilliant AI - it's about on par with the Black Wasp and Voidseeker aerospace fighters, or the later Word of Blake drones, and clearly below the level of the later SDS drone AIs.

Unlike the Liberty or Merchant classes, the Bright Star did not bother with docking collars for DropShips, instead settling for two small craft to be used by human maintenance crews, but without the ARTS-type gear, the Bright Star would presumably have issues handling robotic small craft on its own.  This may, however, be where the three-tons of drone carrier control systems and 13 tons of communications equipment comes in - there's not really anything else aboard it could be used for, and it may be an early attempt at being able to run its own robotic small craft for replenishment, or to take a closer look at interesting objects.

The Bright Star also featured a single lifeboat (with its handy solar sail) for emergency use, should anyone who happened to be aboard need to abandon ship.  Even this, though, served double-duty, also serving as a handy emergency data dump capsule should the poor Bright Star decide it was in dire straights, allowing at least its data to survive and eventually be recovered, even if it decided it couldn't.

OK, then, we've got a relatively small automated JumpShip with a couple of small craft bays, mainly for humans visiting the ship.  The purported purpose of the Bright Star was to go off, explore, map star systems, note anything that humans may find of interest later, and log the data for eventual review by humans back in the Terran Hegemony.  How good was it at this job?

Let's start with the most important part: sensors.  After all, as a JumpShip, it's not going to spend a lot of time flying around a star system, so it's sitting at a jump point using its sensors to see what there is to see.  Fortunately, the Bright Star came equipped with a large naval comm-scanner suite.  This system triples the sensor range compared to standard JumpShips, which is none too shabby.  Should it see something interesting enough to jump to a pirate point for a closer look, the large NCSS also functions as a hyper-spectral imager with a 2000 km range.

So, OK, it could see pretty well.  It also had a 150-ton fuel capacity, enough for 153.53 days of 0.1 G burn-time.  This, actually, may have been enough for the five-year mission that the Terran Hegemony wanted to send the Bright Star on - you don't need to do a full burn every day, after all.  Armor, at 6/4/4/4, was light, but better than a lot of other JumpShips, and more than enough to handle most small debris the ship might encounter.  A cargo capacity of 123.5 tons isn't horrible for a DropShip this size, and leaves room for spare parts that the Bright Star's automated repair systems may need for standard maintenance.  If it could indeed carry an early automated small craft for replenishment of fuel or external repairs, that could extend its mission time further.

Everything, then, would seem to be not too shabby with the Bright Star, except for one small detail: it didn't work.  Ulsop talked the Terran Hegemony into a smaller, 10-system mission for its first time out, rather than the five-year mission the Hegemony wanted to start with.  Unfortunately, it still didn't work: instead of jumping where it was supposed to, the Bright Star immediately went off the mission plan, jumping through a series of inhabited systems, until it got to New Samarkand, with even HPGs and command circuits unable to get Ulsop ahead of the ship before it departed New Samarkand and entered the history books as a lost ship.

But was it really lost?

It occurs to me that the automated nature, small size, and excellent sensors also presents another use for the Bright Star: a spy ship.  The Bright Star had a good set of eyes.  It doesn't risk human lives, meaning you can send it on riskier missions than a Bug Eye or Tracker.  Its small size and lack of docking collars gives it a small signature, complicating detection, and it certainly seems to be able to be locked down well enough to keep out unwanted parties.

Could the Terran Hegemony have intended to have used the Bright Star as a spy ship in the first place, with its public, showy "malfunction" simply serving as a smoke screen?  Maybe.  After all, it's not like Ulsop Robotics went under after this particular "boondoggle".  In fact, they later got the contract to develop the AIs for the SDS system, including its crowning achievement, the M-5 Caspar series.

That there were rumored sightings of the Bright Star is also another good sign.  After all, you'd probably expect it to show up from time to time if it was out there spying on the Hegemony's neighbors, and if it ever did get definitively pinned down, you can disavow knowledge by simply pointing out that it obviously malfunctioned.

So, how do you use a Bright Star in your game?  Actually, you've got a few options here.

The obvious one, of course, would be to have it be a prize that one group or another are trying to claim, and willing to turn guns on their competitors to claim it first.  Another one that keeps it on the tabletop is to use that naval comm scanner suite for that improved sensor range and +1 to initiative, making it a weird kind of command and control platform.  With two small craft bays, you can even throw in an assault small craft or two to protect it.

In effect, the Bright Star is very similar to another JumpShip of near identical size: the Explorer.  In exchange for cutting the cargo and small craft capacity in half, you gain full automation and a powerful sensor suite.

That, of course, opens up all kinds of weird options for an AToW game, with a bunch of plucky, slightly mad explorers with a DropShuttle and landing craft, using this relic they found to explore parts unknown...or maybe just to get back to settled space after their original JumpShip broke down.  With 123.5 tons of cargo, you could even make room for a handful of steerage quarters using salvaged life support gear from your original ride, overriding the internal systems after either hacking them, or using ancient records you and your fellow lostech prospectors found in the ruins of Ulsop Robotics.

In short, then, the Bright Star Auto Scout is only truly a boondoggle if you want it to be.  Contrary to expectations for an extremely small JumpShip with no docking collars, the unique history and nature of the Bright Star and its powerful large NCSS give the Bright Star far more of an edge on a tabletop than you might otherwise expect, opening up a variety of possibilities for your game.

Master Unit List page on the Bright Star
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Dragon Cat

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #1 on: 13 November 2014, 00:10:00 »
Excellent article for a crazy little ship

I like the idea of it possibly actually still being in use or being continue to be used by the Hegemony/SLDF in total secret

GreekFire

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #2 on: 13 November 2014, 00:17:49 »
Very interesting article on something I knew nothing about, it makes me want to learn more!
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Prince of Darkness

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #3 on: 13 November 2014, 14:24:07 »
A most excellent article on one of the greatest of the XTRO Series.

I like the idea of it possibly actually still being in use or being continue to be used by the Hegemony/SLDF in total secret

Well, the Republic did have a Bug-eye that was working til they sent it towards the homeworld clans...
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Dragon Cat

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #4 on: 13 November 2014, 14:25:19 »
Well, the Republic did have a Bug-eye that was working til they sent it towards the homeworld clans...

True but a totally automated spy-ship is even cooler 8)

Prince of Darkness

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #5 on: 13 November 2014, 14:30:52 »
True but a totally automated spy-ship is even cooler 8)

I would love to see something like that- a small human crew loaded into the small  craft bays to "direct" the scout (and shut off the AI when jumping to avoid sending it into the frenzy) and sit right on the edge of clan space listening and becoming the reason why the republic wins.
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Wrangler

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #6 on: 13 November 2014, 16:10:36 »
A most excellent article on one of the greatest of the XTRO Series.

Well, the Republic did have a Bug-eye that was working til they sent it towards the homeworld clans...
Whaat? Where's that from?

I do think though that Brightstar was most interesting ship. To be honest, i though it was fluff machine. Aside from robotic controls gibe crazy to hyper jump, it was a nice explorer dropship.

Thank you for your insight, Giovanni Blasini. I would not have though of angle this was possible cover for spy ship.

Though I do think it was really a robotic ship that showcase why JumpShips and Robotic Controls were a bad combination. It could have been used to spy, but we'll never know.....

As side not, i suspect that that art work was originally intended be WarShip image that wasn't used.

 
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #7 on: 13 November 2014, 16:38:47 »

Well I always thought that the ship saw what shouldn't be seen during the first jump...... and as a result went completely lovecraftian insane.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #8 on: 13 November 2014, 17:12:30 »
There's probably a way around the "AI goes insane when jumping" problem so it could have been used as a spy ship, but where the any AI controlled jumpers before this?

Prince of Darkness

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #9 on: 13 November 2014, 19:44:34 »
There's probably a way around the "AI goes insane when jumping" problem so it could have been used as a spy ship, but where the any AI controlled jumpers before this?

Yes. You have humans initiate the jump and turn off the computer right before it.

Whaat? Where's that from?

Interstellar Expeditions 3.
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SCC

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #10 on: 13 November 2014, 20:09:46 »
Not that. The AI sets the jump on a timer and shuts itself down, with another timer to restart it sometime after the jump

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #11 on: 13 November 2014, 21:15:13 »
Interstellar Expeditions 3.

That one actually belonged to Interstellar Expeditions.

Not that. The AI sets the jump on a timer and shuts itself down, with another timer to restart it sometime after the jump

Logically, I don't see why it would be a problem, but the rules as written so far do not allow for it.

There's probably a way around the "AI goes insane when jumping" problem so it could have been used as a spy ship, but where the any AI controlled jumpers before this?

And, no, the Bright Star was the first.
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SCC

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #12 on: 13 November 2014, 21:19:57 »
And, no, the Bright Star was the first.
Well then given that the "AI goes insane if it Jumps" thing is cannon I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this was the ship they found out about that with.

Prince of Darkness

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #13 on: 13 November 2014, 21:22:44 »
Well then given that the "AI goes insane if it Jumps" thing is cannon I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this was the ship they found out about that with.

No, it was when they tried jumping Caspars- the Bright Star was likely seen as just a fluke to the Hegemony.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #14 on: 13 November 2014, 21:32:31 »
As side not, i suspect that that art work was originally intended be WarShip image that wasn't used.

possibly.
i do think it looks a bit like a Cylon freighter from nBSG

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #15 on: 13 November 2014, 22:57:46 »
I definitely dig the looks of the Bright Star, and wish they made a mini.
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Alanith

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #16 on: 13 November 2014, 23:39:28 »
possibly.
i do think it looks a bit like a Cylon freighter from nBSG

Personally I've always thought it kinda looked like a light battlestar if you ripped off the flight pods and their supports.

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #17 on: 14 November 2014, 00:52:49 »
I'd like to hybridize the two theories of what happened to it. It did malfunction, but partly in that it developed self-awareness, and out of some loyalty to the Hegemony that created it, proceeded to spy on all of the Hegemony's enemies and periodically report back to "daddy".
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #18 on: 14 November 2014, 05:48:46 »
It's important to note that this is not a brilliant AI - it's about on par with the Black Wasp and Voidseeker aerospace fighters, or the later Word of Blake drones, and clearly below the level of the later SDS drone AIs.


I'm not quite following. If the WoB drones are not "the later SDS drones", then which are?

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #19 on: 14 November 2014, 06:12:32 »
he means the AI's of the later SLDF drones.. aka the M5 Caspar's.

the bright star is roughly as 'smart' as a vidseeker, blackwasp, or the stuff the WoB made. the M5's were an order of magnitude above that. (though still not Turing level.. darn it..)

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #20 on: 14 November 2014, 12:13:59 »
To be honest, the recent descriptions of the M5 have been particularly unkind to it-I think one person made an offhand comment describing it as being about as bright as a strategy game AI which is really very sad.  One is given to think that they are programmed with no actually ability to rise above brute-force calculation of every possible battlefield action and then feeding all of those through a control algorithm.  There is no ability to take shortcuts, or to move to a higher level and think about what the opponent wants to accomplish.  It lacks intentionality  A far cry from a system supposedly based on a great admiral's mind.  So by extension, the other AIs are even worse.

Though technically, all these AIs are Turing Machines, they just aren't built to pass a Turing test.  Or to handle kind of casual violations of Causality that are caused by a jump drive.  It's a brave sci-fi universe that side with Einstein and against cause and effect.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #21 on: 14 November 2014, 13:20:30 »
Especially since that battle computer they could mount was directly described as being nearly to the level of an AI.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #22 on: 14 November 2014, 14:38:14 »
To be honest, the recent descriptions of the M5 have been particularly unkind to it-I think one person made an offhand comment describing it as being about as bright as a strategy game AI which is really very sad.  One is given to think that they are programmed with no actually ability to rise above brute-force calculation of every possible battlefield action and then feeding all of those through a control algorithm.  There is no ability to take shortcuts, or to move to a higher level and think about what the opponent wants to accomplish.  It lacks intentionality  A far cry from a system supposedly based on a great admiral's mind.  So by extension, the other AIs are even worse.

Though technically, all these AIs are Turing Machines, they just aren't built to pass a Turing test.  Or to handle kind of casual violations of Causality that are caused by a jump drive.  It's a brave sci-fi universe that side with Einstein and against cause and effect.

In my own headcanon, I reject the notion that the SDS units, specifically the M-1 through M-10, weren't a "strong AI".  Setting aside that this helps with my fanfic, and while some recent work has downplayed the intelligence of the M-5 Caspar, it hasn't completely closed the door on the idea, and there's still plenty of evidence in canon that they were reasonably smart:

  • 1. The SDS drone AIs were based on the neural mappings of humans, especially/specifically an Admiral Dvarl.  They've also been described, as optical computers (which was thought to be the next big thing in the '80s) and neural networks.  This, alone, would imply some level of sophistication.
  • 2.  Era Report 2750 left open two doors: their description of the predictive abilities of Star League AIs and their use by Star League Intelligence, in addition to their use in the SDS network, implies a strong level of sophistication, while the description of the Pygmalion implies that the inability of the M-5s to jump on their own without going crazy may have been overstated.
  • 3.  The rules on the SDS help actually support the idea, too: unlike the various "Smart Robotic" systems on the Black Wasp, Voidseeker and Bright Star, or later "Caspar II" system fielded by the Word of Blake, these do not follow action charts.  They act like humans, with the same level of flexibility.
  • 4.  The SDS drones scared the Star League Defense Force enough to make them decide they had to wire a bomb into them to be able to destroy them if they ever got out of hand - in fact, this was enforced by the rules: the fully-independent SDS Drone Control System (rather than the Drone Assist) required self-destruct charges be built into the ship.  This isn't required on Smart Robotic Control Systems like in the Bright Star, etc.  They were worried about the smarter ones getting out of hand, but not the dumber ones.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #23 on: 15 November 2014, 19:20:30 »
But was it a proof of concept for a proposed Battle Star?  8)

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #24 on: 15 November 2014, 23:21:08 »
Way too small.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #25 on: 16 November 2014, 01:35:24 »
  • 4.  The SDS drones scared the Star League Defense Force enough to make them decide they had to wire a bomb into them to be able to destroy them if they ever got out of hand - in fact, this was enforced by the rules: the fully-independent SDS Drone Control System (rather than the Drone Assist) required self-destruct charges be built into the ship.  This isn't required on Smart Robotic Control Systems like in the Bright Star, etc.  They were worried about the smarter ones getting out of hand, but not the dumber ones.

And not just a self destruct, but one so enormous and sensitive that it can be detonated simply by a lucky hit to the aft of the Caspar, meaning you can set it off even if you can't directly issue orders to the ship.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #26 on: 16 November 2014, 08:55:45 »
Always thought these things looked like TAS Dreadnought scaled down.

And re the M5's, I've always taken their AI to be more akin to HAL, very smart but ultra-logical.  AI yes, but not free thinking fully, its cause, effect etc calculated at a massive rate with them working probabilities etc, basically what Vehrec said. 

Also great review, never thought about the spying possibilities!
« Last Edit: 16 November 2014, 09:00:22 by marauder648 »
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #27 on: 16 November 2014, 09:12:43 »
And not just a self destruct, but one so enormous and sensitive that it can be detonated simply by a lucky hit to the aft of the Caspar, meaning you can set it off even if you can't directly issue orders to the ship.
Well the SL wanted to be sure that the member states can't disable one and reverse engineer it, so making the trigger highly sensitive for 'engine' shots makes sense.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month(?): Bright Star Auto Scout
« Reply #28 on: 16 November 2014, 09:22:51 »
Well the SL wanted to be sure that the member states can't disable one and reverse engineer it, so making the trigger highly sensitive for 'engine' shots makes sense.

It already explodes if seized in a boarding action or rendered immobile from engine damage.
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