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Echo Cluster
The Official VGA Planets Newsletter
Volume 2. / Issue Number 1.
Janurary 2004


Editor
Contributors
Ed Robinson   E-mail me

Merlyn
Donovan
Lady Kate
Emperor Falcon
Tim Wisseman


This Months Featured Site

Visit Spacecraft Portal Today!

Welcome to the VGA Planets Newsletter! This is the first issue of the new year! I would like to welcome everyone to 2004! I hope this year is a good one, and it definitely promises to be a good one for VGA Planets. Some new update for JVC and Tactical VCR have made playing planets more exciting, and Version 4 is continuing to gain popularity. We have gained some hosts over the last year, and I hear we will be losing some in the next year also, which is sad. Read on and enjoy the monthly article by Lady Kate (Thanks Kate), and Merlyn's monthly contribution also! VGA Planets continues to be the largest PBEM (play by email) strategy game on the market today.

Ed Robinson, Editor

"Thoughts From the Cave"
By Merlyn

Is the Echo Cluster shrinking?

I am going to put aside the topic I started writing this month due to an email I received yesterday.

What has happened to all the Hosts?

VGA Planets can only survive if we have Hosts to run the games. I started cleaning up my Hosting links and should be done sometime this weekend. the list will be extremely small. If you are a Host please email me and send your Host link. I will put it up. It would also be nice to know some details about your Host but that is not necessary. Just remember, the more info I receive the more info I can post on the site about you.

There are thousands of players that are active in VGA Planets and there is room for many hosts. I remember a time when there were so many hosts it was a hard decision to choose which one to play at, now it takes a couple days of searching to find a place to play.

There are some Host programs that are available and they all take a while to learn. There is also a new Hosting program being developed at http://sourceforge.net/projects/autotroll/ and you can use the links there to post your questions. There is currently no download available for the Java Beta Version but a test game should be started by the spring. Start posting questions and lets get this development going!

If you ever thought about hosting or always wanted to host but kept putting it off, now is the time. Get that website up and fire off your host. Join the VGA Planets2 group at Yahoo and let everyone know you have a game available to join. If you are a little leery about starting a complete host solution then start with one game to work the bugs out then add more games slowly. You will be surprised how many games you will be hosting after a couple of months.

Finally I want to take this opportunity to thank all the Hosts for their never ending work in bringing us places to play our favorite game. I would also like to let anyone thinking about hosting VGA Planets games to know that there is plenty of support. Just sign up for the VGA Planets2 Group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vgaplanets2/ and ask your questions. help and support is only a mouse click away.

Next month I would like to start planning a VGA Planets convention for this summer. Nothing big just a three day get together. Remember to bring your laptops!

See you in the Echo Cluster!

If there is anything you would like discussed or you agree or disagree with anything in our column send us your comments at: Merlyn@thelastdomain.com and we would be happy to talk about it or post it in the upcoming months.

Regards
Merlyn
Merlyn@thelastdomain.com

The Secret Weapon of the Echo Cluster
by Lady Kate

There is a race in the Echo Cluster that has discovered a way to create a truly potentially devastating weapon. Most of the time, this weapon is deployed defensively, but sometimes, if used offensively, it can severely disrupt, and even destroy whole empires. I am of course talking about the Crystal People's ability to create web mines. This is the first installment in a multi part history of web mines.

The Crystal's web mines drain fuel from ships. The unsuspecting ship does not even need to strike a mine to lose fuel. Merely being within the boundaries of the field drains fuel. First off, we should address the term 'drains' fuel. That is somewhat a misnomer. The field does not truly 'drain' fuel in the way that the Privateers drain fuel, but rather the web mines cause the neutronium in the fuel tanks to become destabilized and useless.

The Crystal people have always known about their ability to destroy fuel, but it wasn't until their best and brightest scientists began studying this phenomenon that they discovered how and why it was happening, and how to harness this ability and use it as a weapon. They always knew that they could destroy fuel because their own ships, and any other ships they controlled lost fuel at an alarming rate. Even in the planetary mines, they noticed that their fuel recovery was far less than the reports they received on other races.

The scientists knew that their people always had a very close relationship with all minerals. They could manipulate them in ways that other races could not. This made sense since as a people, they were what the other biological races would consider minerals themselves. Their bodies did not contain any of the traditional organic compounds that the other biological races contain, yet they were alive. They also knew that they had a closer affinity to minerals that formed rigid crystalline structures. Using this knowledge, they began investigating the fuel decay phenomenon.

Neutronium, if you will recall, forms a very rigid crystalline lattice, which is why it is inherently unstable. The investigation began, not to create a weapon, but to reduce the fuel loss aboard their own ships and allow them to explore the universe more quickly and with a wider range. Several key discoveries were made that led to the actual solution to the problem, and the development of the mines them selves. First, it was noticed that ships with larger crews lost fuel at a faster rate, and second, ships that entered star dock frequently lost fuel at a much slower rate. After many decades of research, the problem was finally solved. The Crystal Peoples own waste product was the cause.

Once the cause was discovered, the scientists began searching for ways to fix this problem. Ultimately, they designed very small containers that could hold the waste, and shield the neutronium from the effects of their waste. These containers accidentally led to the creation of the web mine.

Crystalline star faring policy was to eject the waste containers before entering star dock. Most captains would wait until their ship was within the star dock system before ejecting their containers. Space around the star docks quickly became cluttered with these waste containers, and every so often a ship would strike one. When the ship struck one, the ship quickly lost about 1/6 of its fuel. This problem quickly became a big issue when several ships carrying a high level government delegation struck several of these containers, and could not continue their journey because the planet they were at did not have enough fuel in reserve. From that point on, a new policy was put in place. The waste containers were to be kept planet side. Another policy was also quietly implemented.

Among the delegation were a few high level military officials who instantly saw the value in their predicament. As soon as they got back to the home world, they began a secret program to develop a weapon that could keep intruders into Crystalline territory at bay. They began developing what would become known as the web mine.

The development was slow going at first because of the massive amounts of fuel lost in testing. Finally, the fuel usage became so high, that outside investigations were begun. The investigators never discovered the true nature of the fuel consumption. Perhaps only months before the investigation would have discovered the secret research program, the Crystalline home world was attacked by the Borg. Although devastated, the Crystal People were able to repel the attack, and begin rebuilding.

During the attack, many governmental and private space borne observation posts noticed that as the Borg ship approached the home world, it was losing fuel at an alarming rate. They also noticed that the fuel levels would drop drastically every time the cube struck a waste container left over from before the planet side waste storage policy went into effect a few years earlier. The fuel loss the Borg cube experienced did not stop the attack, but once the Crystalline defenders began to turn the tide and repel the Borg invasion, the cube did not have enough fuel to escape. Crystalline reinforcements arrived from a nearby star base and destroyed the cube. Post battle analysis showed that the Borg cube began losing fuel at a slow rate when it entered the home world system, and that indeed each waste container strike caused massive fuel loss.

Once these discoveries were brought before the Crystalline government, the secret research program was revealed. The program was presented as a defensive program to be used to protect Crystalline interests and territory. The public reaction was mixed, but mostly positive, so the research continued rapidly.

Further investigation of the Borg incident revealed that the reason the cube began losing fuel before it struck the containers was that the containment field around the containers had weakened over the years in space. The researchers started putting all of the pieces together and finally produced a container that could have its containment field weakened intentionally before it was deployed into space. Many months were spent calculating and testing the threshold of weakening that would cause maximum fuel decay, yet keep the container strong enough to be released into space.

Once the container was in full production, several Crystalline naval vessels were assigned to testing these containers. What they discovered was that by using the standard mine deployment equipment, and the existing mine casings, these waste containers could be deployed without any shipboard hardware modification. One ingenious ship engineer discovered a way to cause the standard mine casing to fall away from the waste container just after deployment leaving just the waste container. The waste containers were about 1/10th the size of a standard mine.

The problem still remained however that when deploying these new mine units, the ships laying them were losing fuel. Research began on finding a way to protect the shipboard fuel storage from the effects of the waste mines, which is what they had become known as. The initial thought was to use the same containment field the waste containers used to contain the fuel. This worked fine, but another attack, this time by the Facist Empire against an outlying research station resulted in the capture of a ship testing the fuel containment field.

After the Facist raid, public fears practically forced military officials to deploy their new waste mines around every planet and star base. What the public did not know was that the Facists had captured the very device that the Crystals had been using to protect their own ships from the waste mines. The military knew this, but reluctantly agreed to deploy en masse the new waste mines. This was to be the largest deployment yet of the new mines. Infact, before this, the largest deployment had consisted of four individual units.

Several military vessels were fitted with the experimental waste mine suppression field, and sent out to deploy the massive minefields. The events surrounding the deployment of these mines would become some of the most monumental in the history of the Crystal People.

Here Ends Part I

STRATEGY SECTION

This month, the Strategy section will feature a first of several parts involving Strategy on how to play the Fascists, one of several races in VGA Planets. The contributor to this is known to his enemies as R'bok, and to his friends as Bob.

VGA planets is a complex but very playable email game that incorporates virtually every space dweller known to Hollywood. I have always felt that the key to VGA is finding a race to play that matches your personality. Once upon a time, when I first started with VGA, it was recommended to me that I try playing the Fascists (based on the Star Trek Klingon Empire). I was warned that the Fascists are not the easiest race to play, but I donned my ceremonial sash, practiced my best Warf imitation and headed off to join the Black Fleet in Sto-vo-kor. Here I have compiled some tips and strategy gleaned from other Fasist guides and several years of non-stop VGA action.

Overview

The Fascists have generally been considered one of the weaker races in VGA, but in later versions of the game many race advantages were added to help the Fascist Empire be more competative. While the big carrier races like the Colonies, Rebels, Evil Empire and Robots rely on huge ships with lots of fighters, the Fascist Fleet consists of smaller battleships and medium sized cruisers armed with torpedoes and plenty of beams. Depending upon the game parameters, the Fascists usually have to start quickly and remain on the offensive the entire game in order to stay within striking distance of the leaders. While small ships with short legs are a disadvantage, the Gods of the Echo Cluster have blessed the Fascists with two aces in the hole: Pillaging and pop ships. As we will see later, these race advantages, when used to their potential, will help the Fascist Commander conquer his own little corner of the universe.

Ship Review

Some strategy guides deal only with ships unique to the individual race. Since the Fascist Empire is unique in its self, I think it will be important to look at every ship available to the Fascist Commander and how it is best suited to the Empire's battle plan.

Small Deep Space Freighter

I am not sure why this ship was even included in the game. With a 70 cargo, it is not good for hauling anything except maybe extra colonists to that nice Bovonoid planet close to your home world. Without transwarp engines, it is virtually useless.

Medium Deep Space Freighter

With a cargo capacity of 200, the medium deep is not bad considering the cost. Early in the game when funds are low, this little one engine ship can be a life saver, especially on those brand new starbases. When I build a new starbase, I usually up the tech levels enough to build a medium deep to service that base exclusively.

Large Deep Space Freighter

The backbone of everyone's support fleet, the large deep is the duce-and-a-half of VGA planets. 1200 kiloton cargo and 600 fuel make this ship your choice for colonization or supplying the old home world.

Super Transport Freighter

This four engined behemoth has a 1200 kiloton fuel tank and 2600 kiloton cargo hold. It is expensive to build and almost impossible to keep the gas tank full. I build these ships only when things are going so well and fuel so plentiful that I can indulge myself.

Small Transport

This ship qualifies as a warship because it has two beams. With only 30 mass and 50 cargo, I have never seen anyone build this ship in a game.

Neutronic Fuel Carrier

A 900 fuel tank enables this small mass ship to transport neutronium to the home world or along with the fleet. It uses almost no fuel it self, so besides hauling the life's blood of the battleships, it also can be used to collect cash from distant planets. Every race needs a ton of these.

D7a Painmaker Class Cruiser

The Painmaker is a small cruiser with only four beams and 170 mass. The 120 cargo make it marginally useful as an armed freighter or possible a gofer ship to collect money from outlying planets. In some games, your star base is provided with a free Painmaker hull and I will occasionally use the hull when cash is short just to have a warship in home waters for defense against smaller probes and the Rebel's Falcon Class Escort.

Little Pest Class Escort

Deemed a useless ship by some, this tiny vessel has 75 mass, 180 fuel and a 20 kiloton cargo hold. Armed with six beams, it can deal with any probe or the Falcon if properly deployed. Install six heavy phasers and a couple of these "Pests" can easily sweep large minefields. All that being said, I build these depending on the circumstances of the game. It is a more efficient ship for cash collecting and local patrol but you will never see it in large numbers.

D7 Coldpain Class Cruiser

Okay, lets say that again: "Coldpain Class Cruiser". Remember this ship as it is one of the three ships you will build the most. Four beams, two torp tubes, 100 kiloton cargo capacity and a whopping 430 fuel tank this ship is also equipped with a cloaking device. The Fascist builds these babies early and often. Scouting and interdiction of enemy shipping is the job of the Coldpain and she does her job well. The Coldpain is the first ship I build and I build them throughout the game. Equipped with x-ray beams and at least mark seven torps, this ship will capture or destroy freighters and pillage to your heart's content. The Coldpain is the Fascsits' eyes and ears and probably the most useful ship in the fleet. We will talk about the Coldpain at length in the strategy section.

Ill Wind Class Battlecruiser

Here is another ship to remember. With ten beams, two torp tubes and 275 mass, this ship also has a 480 fuel tank and 260 cargo. A good ship on any level but this one is a tech five hull. You can build Ill Wind's cheaply and very early. Because of the mass, this ship will take out any other warships prowling around early in the game. The large cargo hold make the Ill Wind suited for early colonization or freight hauling. If you are close to another race, the Ill Wind can take them out quickly and easily. Later in the game, the Ill Wind can pack 230 torps and be used as a great mine layer. The ten beams also make this ship a great mine sweeper. This versatile ship will be discussed further in the strategy section.

D3 Thorn Class Destroyer

One would think that this cloaking ship, with two beams and four torp tubes would be even better than the D7 for interdiction of enemy shipping. But a mass of only 90, cargo of only 40 and a 120 fuel tank combine to make this a pretty useless ship. Unless you are playing with the Raceplus addon, this ship is totally useless. In Raceplus, the D3 is used to capture enemy ships by way of a boarding party and in that case, it pretty nice to have.

Valiant Wind Class Carrier

The sole carrier afforded to the Fascists, this ship has seven beams but only three fighter bays. It can hold eighty fighters, but the low number of fighter bays and small fuel tank (180) make this a pretty useless ship to the Fascists. But hey, we're a torp race, remember?

Deth Specula Class Frigate

With six beams and four torp tubes and a cloaking device, one would think that the Deth Specula (or Death Spatula as my friend Jon Springer calls it) is a rocking little ass kicker. Problem is that the Deth Specula has thimbles for a fuel tank (140) and cargo (35). Its relative small mass (113) make this ship ineffective against other warships and too anemic to interdict enemy shipping. Sometimes I build a couple of these if the going is good just because the name is cool. Other than that, forget it.

D19b Nefarious Class Destroyer

Remember this one. The D19b has seven beams and a small (96) mass. Only 40 cargo and 120 fuel, useless, right. WRONG! One of two ships equipped with the Glory Device, the Nefarious becomes the Fascist equalizer. What is a glory device? According to the VGA manual, the Glory Device is basically a method by which explosive material is incorporated into the Nefarious hull. When the Nefarious friendly code is set to "pop" the ship literally explodes. Any enemy ship occupying the same space receives one mine hit of damage. Friendly ships in the immediate area are only damaged at 20% of the normal rate. Another advantage with these little Kamikazes is that if you explode them over a planet occupied by Amorphous worms, the little buggers are all turned into supplies at a rate of one million = one thousand. So if you have a planet with say, six million Amorphous natives, exploding a Nefarious over the planet (or "popping" as we call it) will give you six thousand supplies that can be turned into cash. So those useless Amorphous planets are a boon to the Fascist! Much, much more about this ship later.

Saber Class Frigate

Also equipped with a Glory Device, the Saber has ten beams. Works just like a Nefarious except it damages friendly ships less when used in battle. Somewhat more expensive than the Nefarious, I don't usually build these.

Neutronic Refinery Ship

This ship converts supplies and minerals into fuel. Build only when gas is at a critical minimum level and you have a Bovonoid world to waste.

Merlin Class Alchemy Ship

The Merlin converts supplies into any of the three minerals you want. Sooner or later, you will have to build a Merlin to keep the home world supplied with minerals. A trick that I learned from one of the masters is that you build the Merlin, which has eight beams, with at least heavy blasters and leave it on your home world. Bring supplies to the Merlin instead of parking it on a Bovonoid planet. The huge mass of this ship make it difficult for small, cloaking ships to kill. Besides making minerals for you, this ship will be a great home defense platform. I have lost many a D7 to Merlins with stacked beams.

Victorious Class Battleship

Last but not least, the Victorious is the back bone of the Fascist attack fleet. With ten beams and six torp tubes, this ship has reasonable mass (451), good cargo (130) but a thimble for a fuel tank at 290. The small fuel capacity makes the Victorious a difficult ship to move long distances. Prepositioned fuel and several Neutronic fuel carriers are a must. The best thing about a "Vicky" is that it is pretty cheap to build and can be made in various versions for different tasks. When going against a fighter race like the Colonies, for instance, two Vickies armed with x-rays and mark four torps will each kill thirty fighters from a Virgo and take the shields down to near zero. A third Vicky armed with mark seven or eights should finish the carrier off. This works the same against Borg Cubes or Super Dreadnaughts. Since the Vickies are cheaper to build, killing a Cube or Dreadnaught with three or four Vickies is worth the price.

Other Ships That Will Help

You sometimes can trade for other ships or ally yourself with other races. In that case, some ships from other races are especially useful to the Fascists.

Cobol Class Research Cruiser

The Cobol is equipped with four beams and two torp tubes and has a 250 cargo with 450 fuel. Not a bad ship without considering this ship's inherent ability to take neutronium out of space at a rate of 2 kilotons per light year traveled. That means that, as the Cobol travels through space, it fills its own fuel tank! This free gas could be very useful to the Fascist with his short legged Vickies.

Falcon Class Escort

A hype ship that has a 120 cargo hold, the Falcon is used by the Rebels to execute the Rebel Ground Assault. Give one to a Fascist, and he can hype in and out, pillaging the enemy at will. This ship is also great for long range recon and colonization. Get one with heavy phasers, and you can hype into a minefield, sweep for a few turns and hype back out with no risk of hitting a mine.

Dwarfstar Class Transport

A cloaking transport owned by the Privateers, this little sucker has a 220 cargo, 180 fuel and six beams! Team this with a Coldpain and you have a nice sneak attack capability. Getting one from the Privateers is another matter all together.

This is the end of the first of several parts dealing with Admiral R'bok's strategy guide. See Next month's newsletter for more info!

Monthly Help
Brought to you by Donovan!

Ships with Ramscoop generate fuel

The Cobol Class Research Vessel is equipped with a simple Ram Scoop as a part of it's hull design. The Ram Scoop will produce 2 KT of Neutronium per light year traveled by the starship. So if the Cobol traveled ten light years it would generate 20 KT of fuel. So in theory, if it used less than 20 KT of fuel to go that 10 light years the starship would experience a net gain in fuel.

* The Cobol Class does not scoop fuel when it is being towed.
* The Cobol Class will also scoop fuel while it is towing another ship.
* The host can set the scoop rate at 0kt, 1 kt, 2 kt, 3 kt or 4 kt of fuel per light year. The default is 2kt.

Though the Cobol will often generate more fuel than it burns, note from the host order that it generates fuel after movement and not during movement. So yes, the following scenario is possible: Your Cobol is set to tow your filled superfreighter. It runs out of fuel halfway, and stops. Further down the host process, the fuel is generated based on the moved distance. So when you open up your next RST, you'll have received a message from your Cobol stating that is does not have the fuel to tow your ship at the current speed. You will also find your Cobol sitting somewhere between where it started and where it should have been, but WITH FUEL. So always be sure you have enough fuel to reach your destination.

Although the order of actions might implicate otherwise, the Cobol does scoop fuel when it is intercepting. So perhaps there should be another 'Cobol scoops fuel' phase after intercepting, but we'll leave it as it is for now.

If a Cobol's tank is full it has no place to store any generated fuel, so it will burn some fuel when moving, and then fill the tanks up again. Excess fuel gets wasted.

The preceeding section is but a small portion of Donovan's Help Section. To visit Donovan's Site, go to http://www.xs4all.nl/~donovan

Featured Host

This month's featured host is Emperor Falcon, the creator and host at Spacecraft Portal! Read on to find out more about Falcon, or Erik as his friends call him.

1. When did you start playing VGA PLanets?

I started playing VGAP with the good well-known VGA Planets 3.0 in March 1993 (as I was 26 years old). It was a DOS game but it was very amazing to play a PBEM (played by eMail) game via a BBS. My alias was "Falcon". Some years later I renamed it to a better well-known character: "Emperor Falcon". Well, that's only when I'm playing races with imperial behaviour (then the dark side of the force will be very strong in me, and the past enemies knew it). Okay, enough of lightsaber clashes...

2. When did you decide to start Hosting?

After I made a couple of test games for my own I invited some friends of mine for my first hosted local game. It was very interesting to host a game - and to see the results. I used for the first hosting the old host version 3.00f. We used disks for "RST sending" and "TRN receiving". The game took place in a room with two computers (only two players could made a move at the same time...) or the players took the disks to their own computer at home and delivered the TRN files back via disk. During the game I found a good working procedure for automated file transfer (RST/TRN files!) via my own BBS. So later we didn't need the disks anymore for "file transfer"... ;)))

3. When did you create your Host site?

In May 1993 I opened my first VGAP game via BBS. After many years of playing and hosting VGAP games I closed my BBS in March 1998. But I still wanted to host games in the near future again. So I opened my own web site SPACECRAFT PORTAL in May 2000 for a short testing time (creating web pages, gfx and infos). For game hosting and file transfer I used batch files created by my own. The "server" version of the batch file was 65k big and could deal with many different games, add-ons and cplayer settings depending on sent/not sent TRN files (quite different to other programs which normally let the cplayer playing when a player missed 3x a turn). Looking for a good automated hosting program I found the well-known PHCc. I tested it in August 2000 and opened the web site for all players in the next month: September. Today I'm hosting VGAP games since more than 3 1/4 years.

4. Which do you prefer, A plain game with no addons, or a game with addons, and why?

That's not easy to say... a plain game (without add-ons) is the PURE spirit of VGAP. 11 human players (no cplayer!) makes their moves like in a chess game. Cplayers normally cheats (okay, SpaceLord not because the program unpacks RST files and makes TRN files like a human player, too). So they disturbed a plain game while writing directly to the *.hst files in the game dir. But a cplayer can be a replacement for a human player (reasons: holidays, vacation, problems, dropping the game etc.). But sometimes it is a challenge to win against many cplayers in a game (because they can cheat... hehehehe...). Okay, enough of kidding here.

Add-ons are very interesting when used in a VGAP game. But the player should know something about the add-ons before a game starts. Otherwise he/she/it will encounter problems during a game (i.e. he doesn't know features like Asteroid, Starbase+ and ExploreMap has but other experienced players in the game etc. etc. etc.).

Today I like hosting games with add-ons and simply plain ones. Normally I create games for my web site but sometimes a player asks me if I would like to create a game for him and his friends or for international players. Mostly I like it very much if the players of a game discuss HConfig settings before their game starts (so the best settings from the player group are in use).

5. What Country are you from?

I'm from Germany. But as a Planeteer I would like to say: I'm from Terra (Earth, 3rd planet of Sol, spiral arm of Orion, Milkyway galaxy). Do you need the coordinates???

6. Do you like hosting more than playing? or vise versa. And why

I like hosting games. And I like playing games, too. But I think the hosting part is bigger now because I'm not playing in many games at the moment...

7. What do you see as the most progressive change in VGA Planets recently or in the past, and why.

As I stated before VGA Planets 3.0 is a plain DOS game. It only runs on systems with DOS and Windows (when the Windows system supports 16bit applications...). Tim Wisseman, creator of VGAP (hi Tim!), released around 1995 WinPlan 3.5. This client software runs very fine with Windows systems. The step from version 3.0 to 3.5 brought us a better host version (3.2x), more features, and - well - some new rules. I think that the step to WinPlan 3.5 was (and still it is!) a progressive change in VGAP. And Tim still updates sometimes his host version for bugfixing. - I think that Tim has VGA Planets 3.0/3.5 mostly finished (final!).

There are a few other clients around like Echoview, Raw! and so on. Also some programmer developed alternate host version like AHost, FHost and the well-known PHost (the counterpart to Tim's host version). So VGA Planets still interests players, programmers and host sites like me.

8.. What is your favorite Addon?

It's still Starbase+. But I like other add-ons like Asteroid, ExploreMap, JumpGate, Lurkers and Stormfront, too...

9. Where would you like to see VGA Planets go in the next 5 years?

Planets 3.0/3.5 is mostly final. Since 1999 I'm observing Tim's new Planets version 4.0. This is the new "Planets" for the current millennium. It's more detailed, has many rules (many are different to the old known ones of earlier versions), and it is still more complicated for very new players than VGAP 3.x. But the client's GUI, gfx and sfx are still better. Also I like the idea for "more" ship and planet (base!!!) management. And it could be amazing to see new 3rd party race packs (very different to the standard 11 well-known race packs from the original VGAP) AFTER Tim has released the final version of Planets 4.0 (including a fixed and renewed help section, a well working autopilot AI for ships, and a well working AI as a replacement for players that left a game). One of the biggest feature is: not 11 but up to 30 players could join ONE game. The races aren't limited by a rule like "only once per game". So a group of players can choose the same race (i.e. 4x the Feds played in a given game). The version 4 will attract new players around the world in the next few years.

10. Do you think VGA Planets is dying off with no new players, or does it continue to appeal to new people?

I think:
- VGA Planets 3.x wouldn't die the next few years. There are many registered players around the world still playing VGAP3.x games. And there are still coming new players every month.
- Planets 4 (I like to say VGAP4) will overtake the version 3.x position in the next 5 years. VGAP4 is near to a final version (but not the last final... hehehe...). It attracts now many VGAP3.x players like me. And it will attract the next generation of VGAP players.

Last but not least I like to say: "Well, the universe is the only limit!"

eMail to spacecraft-portal@spacecraft-portal.de
on Web: http://www.spacecraft-portal.de/

Bulletin Board

Neil Grigg, host/owner of NAVGAP has a new web address!

"For that last few months, I have been testing the ability of NAVGAP to send html pages to two web servers, understand when one web server did not get the web page delivered and not send the wrong page to the wrong site."

"I'm happy to say that NAVGAP has now got a new web site, thanks to very generous donation of space by one of the NAVGAP users."

"The web site is www.navgap.com."

"That site has an "index.html" page, that is now the front door for NAVGAP. The page that gave you information about when the server last processed email, etc, is still on the web page "navgap.html" (www.navgap.com/navgap.html)"

"As the old web site, "www.home.aome.net.au/neilgrigg/", is not going to be removed it is the "back up" or mirror web site, with web pages being updated immediately after ftp process is run for updating the primary web site. "

"The RCC ladder stays at "www.home.aome.net.au/neilgrigg/ladder.html"

--
Neil Grigg
(NAVGAP - Operator & Help Desk)
http://www.navgap.com
Send Auto Commands to: navgap (at) navgap.com
For Help send email to: navgap-help (at) navgap.com
If all else fails try: neilgriggANTISPAM@c031.aone.net.au
(don't forget to remove the ANTISPAM bit in the above email address)
-------------------------------------

PCC II first beta is out now.
=============================

Many of you know PCC, and some of you even use it. But you also know that, like so many nice VGAP programs, it runs on an obsolete operating system, namely DOS.

PCC II is a re-write of PCC. It is written in C++. It is based on the SDL gaming library. Therefore, it runs natively on Windows, Linux and probably many other operating systems.

This is the first beta version. It can do (almost) all maneuvers a planets client should be able to do. In clear text: you can play a game with it. I did most testing for the last two PHost versions with PCC II.

Using it exclusively, however, might not be as fun as using a more mature program like the original PCC. It is lacking most of the convenience functions like "Undo", "Search", "Auto Tasks", etc. Neither does it have a message parser or util.dat reader. It can, however, read Winplan RSTs. Actually, it can even read RST files directly and write TRNs directly, without needing to unpack the game. Another tasty feature is the ability to run in every resolution you wish, full-screen or windowed.

PCC II actually is a whole suite of programs. Currently, we have
- the client, "pcc-v2" (under Unix, calling a program "cc" is a
shooting offense).
- a VCR player, "playvcr". You may have heard of it.
- a turn file decompiler and manipulator, "un-trn". Unlike the old
DOS un-trn, this one can edit turn files.

PCC II is released under a BSD-style open-source license.

Its web site is . There, you will find:
- source code
- a binary package of pcc-v2 and playvcr for Windows

If you do not have Windows, you can compile the programs yourself. Instructions are included.

Note PlayVCR Users
-------------------

You should also upgrade to the latest version because the previous one has a severe bug (it does not read shiplist.txt correctly).

About Version Numbers
----------------------

This program calls itself 'PCC II (1.99.0 beta)'. I'll be increasing the third number. When the program is stable and "finished", it will be version 2.0.

This is a beta version. I'm quite certain that it is stable enough to actually use it (at least, I have not found a PCC-II-induced red error during my 100+ test host runs). But you should still be aware of the beta status - there might be bugs (and, if you do DOS, that there are more comfortable clients out). But, honestly, I don't know of totally a bug-free PCC 1.x version either

Stefan

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