Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

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TSC
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Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by TSC » Sat Dec 12, 2015 4:14 pm

I've been learning programming the last few years, and having recently gone through some refreshment lessons (Which I'm happy to say went very well) && recently going over Star Control dialogue again, I noticed something funny about the Melnorme Probe.

The Slylandro note about the probe:

The program was...

SCAN (for targets, as defined in Target List).
IF (no current target).
THEN (select New target from Current Targets list, using specified priorities).
IF (Current Position is AT Current Target).
THEN (Set Current Behavior to New Behavior, based on Behavior Priority Settings).
PERFORM (Current Behavior).

Okay, that's the basic program... I said it was simple
and here are the tables used by the program.

TARGET LIST (with associated Target Priority).
Space Vessel (5).
Transmission Source (4).
Astronomical Anomaly (3).
Planet Bearing Life Signature (2).
Raw Replication Materials (1).

PROBE BEHAVIORS (With target requirements - Default priorities).
Communicate (Space Vessel OR Transmission Source) - (5).
Record Data (Any target) - (4).
Analyze Data (Unanalyzed data in queue) - (3).
Prepare Replication Materials (Any Target) - (2).
Move to Current Target (Any target) - (1).



And this would make the Probe (Which in general is a piece of crap (Which the Melnorme admit themselves in-universe. XD) stall if there's no targets in range!

If the Probe has no targets in range, it'd endlessly try to scan for targets.

Now technically if the probe is constantly moving (As it is!) it'd eventually probably drift towards a suitable target and go into it's behaviour mode. But if it really uses an 'if' statement to do so, I'm pretty sure it's program'd crash when there's no targets!

Now if the probe's sensors are calibrated to just seek out the nearest star and scan for minerals in case nothing can selected, it'd probably still work. Same if it does a hard reset if it stalls or malfunctions for a long time.

But given that the probe is mentioned to be crappy IN UNIVERSE, it's a funny thought to imagine the idea that at least half of them are just idiotically flying around with crashed programs. (Naturally you wouldn't encounter these probes because currently having a Blue Screen of Death, they wouldn't seek out your ships)


Honestly, between the quality of this probe and the fact it just HAPPENED to cost exactly what the Melnorme where willing to pay for Studying the Slylandro's biology.... It does go to show the Melnorme, though usually fair and honests enough are not COMPLETELY above gipping a particularly gullible customer.


Either that or they just wanted to sick a zerg rush of probes on the Quans, and used the naive Slylandro to do so.

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Alvarin
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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Alvarin » Sat Dec 12, 2015 5:15 pm

In game also states probes are supposed to return to origin after certain amount of replications. This is not shown in the behaviors.
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Death 999
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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Death 999 » Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:39 am

Yeah, I think that's not the complete program.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by TSC » Sun Dec 13, 2015 2:21 am

Perhaps not. Obviously not even. But I think I mentioned that.

Even so the full program CLEARLY lacks any hardcoding to prevent it from targeting a ship for breaking it down.

That and if-type statements don't do so hot if none of the possibilities apply. (Such as there not being any targets at all.)

I also already also said that the Probe probably would have something like reset mechanisms in case it stalls (Which'd be logical even in a well designed and programmed probe) etc.

And the Melnorme DO mention they have an upgraded version of the same Probe, with which this never would have happened! (Which strongly indicates that they knew this one was faulty or at least severely LACKING.)

They just fobbed it off to the Slylandro anyway. (With a waiver that I'm pretty sure holds up in MELNORME court (And the Slylandro don't HAVE a court), buuuut if there was a big intergalactic court (Which there isn't.) it'd be DEBATABLE if it did. XD)

The Melnorme aren't the Druuge, not remotely. Buuuut they're not QUITE the sterling 100% fair exchange of goods and services they claim to be either. More... MOSTLY. It's a cultural SUGGESTION if the customer is naive enough.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Quasispatial » Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:28 am

A few things.

1. Considering how poor the Slylandro are at programming in general (it is new to them, after all), they may have very well just not recited the eventual "failsafe" coding. I don't doubt that the actual if-circuit has an attachment that makes sure that the probe skips getting stuck on this, should there be no targets available. Assumingly, this is part of the "select new target" function which the if-circuit utilizes. With this, the reset function probably wouldn't even be so sorely needed, simply because the Melnorme wouldn't make such a poor programming mistake.

2. Please, when trying to emphasize something, don't use caps. Italics work just as well for this purpose, without the side-effect of being annoyingly eye-catching. In addition, if you have several parenthesises within each other, if you plan to cut them all of at once you must have an equal amount of ending-ones. If you (write something (like this, you cannot simply (end it with one parenthesis, but (have to use several to even the balance out)))). Just thought it'd be worth mentioning it to you.
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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Tiberian » Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:32 am

Let's not forget that what the Slylandro tell you about the probe's programming is based only on their memory. Obviously they don't have it written down anywhere. Therefore, if nothing else, we can always brush off anomalities as incorrect memories.

And, most importantly, the probe is technologically well above anything we humans can create in 2015. I think it is safe to assume that there can be all kinds of hidden funtionalities.
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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by TSC » Sun Dec 13, 2015 2:37 pm

Kind of seems to me people overestimate the probe!

Not to mention people seem to assume the Melnorme (Who ARE more advanced then the humans) couldn't nonetheless have moments of incompetence.

Technically if the human race one day has technology twenty centuries ahead of what we have today, but is otherwise pretty much the same group of primates, then even a far more advanced humanity would still have it's idiots and incompetents running about.

I don't see why this should be different for the Melnorme honestly!

I could see one cobbling a Probe together that may be made of advanced tech, but still poorly constructed and programmed. (Something a competent Melnorme would ALSO find poorly designed.)

Technically it even could have been decently designed in theory, but poorly put together in practice. (Kind of like that advanced Russian tank that crapped out in the middle of that parade showing it off. (I'm sure that tank when made properly is a fine example of a tank. But clearly something went wrong with that particular specific one. And I'd not be surprised if that Probe was the same.)

-

But even assuming the Melnorme have some sort of pan-racial ability to always be super competent! Then the Probe is even more of a piece of junk actually!

Because a super competent race wouldn't really manufacture a tool meant for peaceful exploration that could in incompetent hands easily be turned into a Von Neumann weapon!

I honestly don't think people can just easily blame the Slylandro for this and consider the Melnorme blameless (because the Melnorme themselves say so and assure you it's legal, because they have a waiver.) Though I also don't think the Melnorme necessarily had overtly ill intent (Although they did extremely obviously gip the Slylandro. Because that Probe just happened to cost exactly that many gree-dots!)

-

No I think it stands that the probe is in one way or the other shoddily designed. The fact it malfunctioned like this in itself says the probe was bad at it's supposed goal. (Lacking fail safes preventing it from targeting ships for component compounds. Easily caused to malfunction with lethal results if poorly handled. (With a good product none of the fiddling with the settings should have caused such calamity.)

And there's the fact the Melnorme say they did have a better version of the same probe that was out of stock. (Which indicates they recognized this one had... problems.)

Yeah I think it stands pretty well, the Melnorme sold them a junk probe. (Probably figuring that as long as the Slylandro didn't fiddle with it, it'd be okay. (And not sticking around to provide customer service so that the Slylandro didn't fiddle with it either.)

At best definitely irresponsible.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Draxas » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:04 pm

I think the one thing that's always bothered me about the Probe is the fact that if the behaviors are so carefully balanced to keep the Probe on-mission, why are there adjustment sliders included rather than keeping those values hard coded? The only explanation I can come up with is that the Probe behaviors are actually custom set by the Melnorme on a client by client basis, and the Probe repackaged for whatever purpose it is being sold for. So perhaps certain clients are actually buying the budget priced self-replicating weapon.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Ogo3142 » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:50 pm

Honestly, I don't think FF&PR really thought about the probe behavior much, because the program as described by the Slylandro just doesn't make any sense. There's no check to make sure that the current "target" makes sense, or anything to make sure that all behaviors happen; it just goes to the highest priority target and then performs the highest priority action. The dialog tries to convince you that the behavior that occurs is because the priority for seeking replication materials is at maximum, but really, there shouldn't be any difference in effect compared to if it was set to 6. Priorities just indicate what actions are preferred over what other actions.

Just some lazy writing, or perhaps a trolling attempt. I don't think it's worth thinking much about.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by TSC » Tue Dec 15, 2015 3:27 pm

Ogo3142 wrote:Honestly, I don't think FF&PR really thought about the probe behavior much, because the program as described by the Slylandro just doesn't make any sense. There's no check to make sure that the current "target" makes sense, or anything to make sure that all behaviors happen; it just goes to the highest priority target and then performs the highest priority action. The dialog tries to convince you that the behavior that occurs is because the priority for seeking replication materials is at maximum, but really, there shouldn't be any difference in effect compared to if it was set to 6. Priorities just indicate what actions are preferred over what other actions.

Just some lazy writing, or perhaps a trolling attempt. I don't think it's worth thinking much about.
Well if you're writing the story you think about it.

How could an exploration probe build by an advanced race malfunction?

If it was a dodgy probe.

Could the Melnorme build one of those? Sure, they might be advanced and usually competent, but they have more then a few lines like this;

'After some wild game, hmmm? Well, the changes we made should really make a difference!
...uh... unless of course that wiring went in backwards
in which case you won't be able to shoot at all, or take off for that matter.
Don't worry, Captain. We stand behind our work. If something goes wrong
just bring it back to us, and we'll fix it pronto!'


To further bolster my point, humans can build a solid state drive. I have one in my computer. Me personally, I can build a computer from scratch with the parts. But I don't know how all the parts work to the degree I could write blueprints on how to build them. Let alone that I understand the quantum physics behind my SSD. I just know it's something to do with Fluor atom electrons.

Likewise the Melnorme's research and development division is likely mostly brilliant. They'd still be flawed mortals, but they would understand the stuff they build and develop.

But wether some random Melnorme cobbling together a probe from such parts is brilliant is another story.

I don't think I have much more to say about it, but I also think this quote says a lot;

'Couldn't you broadcast some kind of recall signal?

No, not catalog item 2418-B
(Remote Self-Replicating Robot Explorer Probe).
The model with the recall transmitter was catalog item 2419
and the Melnorme said it was out of stock.'


The Melnorme just aren't 100% competent all the time. (And the Slylandro even less so, but they have an excuse.)

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