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Echo Cluster
The Official VGA Planets Newsletter
Volume 2. / Issue Number 5.
May 2004

Ed Robinson   E-mail me

Lady Kate
Tim Wisseman

This Months Featured Site

Visit - the VGA Planets War Academy Today!!

Welcome to the VGA Planets Newsletter! This edition features another article by Lady Kate. Also continuing column by Merlyn. There is a continuing feature on playing multiples of the same race in games also. Read on and enjoy!

Ed Robinson, Editor

"Thoughts From the Cave"
By Merlyn

The Privateers

Last month we started discussing a maneuver on how to use an SSD to steal planets. This month we will give you some hints on how to arrive at the plant out of fuel while towing the SSD.

You want to be out of fuel when you reach the planet so you will not fight!

You might have found that clients which claim exact fuel prediction sometimes err, and your ship burns less fuel than predicted. Well Stefan Reuther finally found the reason: it's a problem with the MS BASIC runtime library. When asked to compute the distance to a point 3 ly away (dx=3,dy=0) dist = INT(SQR(dx^2 + dy^2)) it returns 2. Essentially, the well-known fuel formula is right, but the mathematical universe is wrong. There exist a few 100 other points where BASIC errs, and where clients and HOST.EXE disagree. Stefan has written a small essay about that topic, with some tables, graphics and downloads, on http://phost.de/~stefan/fuelusage.html.

There are a few easier ways that will work almost all the time. First you mast have a couple of cloakers waiting at the intended planet cloaked and fueled. I usually use a br5 with Hyper Drive 8 engines for towing the ssd. If "Gravity Wells" are turned on this should work just fine. jettison just enough fuel so you run out when you get 1 ly past the planet and set your waypoint to 3ly past the planet. If the calculation is a bit off you will surely run out of fuel at the 2nd or 3rd ly past the planet and the gravity well will pull both your ship into orbit at the planet. The next trn transfer 1 kt of fuel to both the BR5 and the SSD. Drop 10 clans from the SSD so the planet/starbase will be your the next trn. Set your BR5 and SSD to rob and do the same with your MCBR's except for the ones you want to use to tow other ships away.

What you do now is totally up to you.........

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.



Dinner With the Doctor
By Lady Kate

'Very well then. The sooner we get this done the better. When we are ready, call me to the bridge. I will be in my quarters.' and with that, R'Laucke stood, turned, and left the room without a glance ant anyone or anything but the tops of her shoes.

Her door chime sounded two hours later. She ignored it. Seconds later it chimed again, and again she ignored it. The third time it chimed, she yelled 'What do you want?'

'R'Laucke,' came the voice of K'Tain. 'I would like to speak to you.'

The door slid open and K'Tain entered cautiously. It was very dark, and he called to the computer to increase the lighting level. The computer complied, and what he saw was very troubling to say the least. Her quarters were a mess. Things thrown all over, pottery broken, data pads on the floor, and there on the bed lay R'Laucke. Her face was very red, and her eyes were puffy. 'Don't look at me' she sobbed.

'Commander, I understand your frustration at this situation, but it could not be avoided. We...' began K'Tain, but he was cut off in mid sentence as R 'Laucke turned to face him with venom in her watering eyes.

'Sub-commander,' she began with a fierceness he had never seen before. 'Do not say you understand my frustration. You never could. I am the commander of this vessel, and I almost got us all killed. I should have seen this. It was laid out to be so brilliantly obvious, that I should have seen it. I had an idea, and went with it before thinking about it, and we almost paid for it with our lives. I have been thinking since then though. I am not sure I am fit for command any longer.'

'Commander, things could be much worse. This is something that was not as obvious as you would like to think. I also sensed that as things were being explained in there, that you were thinking one step ahead of the tactical officer. You do have the ability to command. You need to keep remembering that.' he said.

'K'Tain, my friend, I am becoming quite distressed about the messages. They keep coming. The transmissions have stopped but I can't help thinking that maybe this person is closer than any of us think. I did not see what was happening with the Borg until it was almost too late. What if this is not figured out until it is too late?'

'R'Laucke, you are surrounded by people who care for you deeply and respect and admire your strength and presence, and you can rest assured that we will be using every resource we have to solve this. This person will not go unpunished.' stated K'Tain. He continued 'The reason I am here is to let you know that we think this will be the best time to destroy the Borg ship. After that is done, I think we should proceed at best possible speed to Mirak to get you away from all of this for a while, and to try to get to the bottom of the problem with our mutual 'friend'.'

R'Laucke forced a small laugh and cracked a halfhearted smile. "Friend', what an interesting way to put it. Go ahead with the plans to destroy the Borg ship, and best possible speed to Mirak. I do not want to be up there at the moment. I just want to be alone.' she said with some finality and turned her back on K'Tain, and threw herself on her bed. K'Tain turned and left the room.

The communication from command had been very welcome. The crew of the Talbok deserved the shore leave they had been granted. Although many of the personnel had no idea how close they were to a very disastrous situation, mostly because of the carelessness of their commander, they had felt the tension among the command crew. Yes, this would be a good break. R'Laucke's computer chimed indicating an incoming message. When she turned on her monitor, she saw that there were two messages waiting. The first, she read with bittersweet emotion. The shore leave would be shorter than they had expected. Things had been happening much more quickly than anyone had anticipated, and the war was escalating. The uneasy alliances had actually solidified to a point where the many small skirmishes had become polarized t o the point where there were now just two alliances and the quadrant was poised for war. She was advised to stand by for her orders. How was she going to break it to her crew that just days after returning from duty, that they would be called upon again. Oh well, they were one of the best crews in the fleet. They would do their duty, and the war would be over sooner or later, and they would get their break then.

She had been careful in opening her messages because of her growing paranoia over her stalker, but her thoughts were off in another place when she opened the other message. All it said was 'Enjoy your leave. I'll be waiting.'

She quickly erased the message, and forced down the fear that was building. Deep breaths, take deep breaths. We are close to finding him she thought. Just the night before, she had received a communication from him, and at K' Tains urging, she had not immediately severed the connection. When K'Tain had tried to trace and confront the sender, the feedback loop that was generated was enough to cause communications on the ship to go down for a few minutes. He had said that who ever had access to equipment capable of taking down a starships communications array was well connected. The type of equipment used could only be found in a few places. The research labs in several different sectors, and aboard a star base. When he said star base, she felt a chill go down her spine. He did not notice, or if he did, he did not give any indication that he had, as he continued talking about the imminent war.

Two days later, they arrived at the Mirak star base. She had ordered a communications blackout for the ship as she felt like she was on the verge of breaking. She knew that this was totally irrational. She had fine officers around her that would do anything they could to keep her safe. Her best friend since childhood was married to a man who was a Major in the Tal' Shiar. She had help around her. All she had to do was ask, but that was the problem. She couldn't bring herself to admit that things were probably out of her control. Losing control was not something she was used to. Ever since childhood, she would set a goal and reach it. She controlled every aspect of her life. This had caused problems at times, but in the end, it had allowed her to become one of the youngest commanders the fleet had ever had. Losing control...she could not think about it. She forced down all of her self-doubt and insecurities and transported over to the star base.

Almost immediately, Selar, one of the most accomplished commanders in the Imperial Navy, approached her. 'R'Laucke,' he said with warmth in his voice that she found very comforting. 'It is good to see you again. I hate to do this, but we will need to discuss your orders when you have rested. Would you care to join me for dinner this evening?'

'Oh, I would love to!' she exclaimed. 'When shall you be joining me?' she asked him.

It always tickled him the way she was able to turn things around to take control of any situation. 'How does 8 o'clock sound dear?'

'Very nice thank you. Will you be stopping by to get me?' she asked playfully. Their relationship was purely professional, but occasionally they engaged in playful flirting. To an outsider, they may find themselves asking what it was all about, but to anyone who knew them, they were very dedicated to their spouses, and would never dream of betraying their relationships. They had only met a couple of times before, but had great professional respect for each other, and enjoyed each other's company.

'Ahh, letting me think I am in control here? Well, very well then, I'll pick you up at 8 o'clock.' With a broad smile, he turned and left.

R'Laucke made her way to her quarters on board the station. She was looking forward to getting a few hours rest before meeting with Selar. She was ready to let someone else know about her stalker. She would probably break down totally, but she could not stand this any more. At least she was here on the base where security was tight, and since she had no official command status here, she could just have all of her communications rejected.

She was unable to sleep, but she did manage to lie down for a while and watch a holovid about ancient terra. The resources here on the base far surpassed what she had on the Talbok. Yes, she would enjoy her time here.

At precisely 8 o'clock, her door chime rang, and there stood Selar. He offered his arm, and she cheerfully took it. They went up to the officers lounge overlooking the star port and sat next to one of the windows. Looking out, she saw the Talbok. It wasn't very often that she was able to see her ship from this position. It was very beautiful, but the stress of the past several months was showing. There was a lot of scoring on the hull from various explosions and battles, but it still looked as strong and beautiful as the first time she had laid eyes on it.

'R'Laucke, you look troubled. Does it have anything to do with your last mission?' he inquired.

'Not really. I think I am just tired.' she said trying to hide her surprise at his question. The last several months of the Talboks mission was supposed to be classified. That was not normal, but given all that had happened, she thought it best, and command had agreed.

'Well, something must have happened. I looked through the mission logs, and the last month is classified. I don't even have access to it. What the hell happened?' he asked forcefully.

She knew that very few people would dare ask her something so directly and forcefully. She was the one who usually asked the questions. 'I really don't want to talk about it.' she said, casting her eyes down so Selar would not see them filling with tears.

He reached out and placed his hand on hers and very tenderly said 'Alright.'

That was all it took to make her completely break. With tears streaming down her face, she poured her heart out to him. She told him everything about the stalker, about her doubts in her ability to command, about how much she missed her husband, about everything. All of her insecurities, self-hatred, everything that had happened since childhood came pouring out. Two hours later, she had finally cried herself out, and when she looked around, she realized that they were still alone in the lounge.

She quickly tried to compose herself, took some deep breaths, and slowly raised her head to face him. 'I'm sorry.' is all she could manage to say.

He just held out his hand to her, and she took it. 'It will all work out. I promise.' he said.

After a few moments of awkward silence, R'Laucke snapped her head up as if the past two hours had not happened, and said 'Well what are we having to eat. I am starving.'

Selar smiled at her. She is going to be all right, he thought. She is going to be all right.

Following is a general strategy, the second part on playing the Colonies, written by "Cain".

Ok, now lets jump ahead a little. You have gotten colonizing started, and you have yourself a little force of ships that are colonizing and defending.. I wouldn't even think about being in a position to attack much before turn 20.. unless you have a hostile neighbor breathing down your neck. For your first 20 turns, you should build your Cobols, a couple of Patriots, and a few Lady Royales. The Lady Royales are built at your homeworld (since that's where your clans are), and load them with 160 clans each, this will give you 160 mc every turn per ship... this is where our money comes from since your aren't taxing your clans... REMEMBER? Ok, now the Lady Royales I usually build with low tech Engines, and low tech beams.. And low tech torps.. these ships only have 1 tube each anyway... and why waist money and minerals on a ship that all you are using it for is a money maker anyway? You might say since the LR has a cargo of 160, why not use it as a Torp ship? Well, let me tell you why. Because you have a Cruiser called the Tranquility, which will fill that function. You should have at least one of these Tranquilities built by now, with at least Tech 7 Torps on it. (Tech 7s are better yield for the money/minerals) . The Tranquility is your ULTIMATE torp ship, with 2 tubes, and a HUGE gas tank (460) and can carry up to 380 cargo, so you can carry a mixture of torps/supplies/clans, or whatever. This baby is very valuable, because it is your minelayer. Use these for this purpose.. they come in really handy. So you should have at least one built, and thats what he has been doing, laying protective minefields around your area. Lets see.. what else? Oh, ok.. I would hope that you would have at least one more starbase, if not two, built by now. Also by now you should have found a good Bovinoid world to colonize, and there is a reason for this, its called the GEMINI CLASS TRANSPORT. Find a Bovinoid (remember the Bioscanner?) world, and colonize the hell out of it. Then build a Gemini at one of your starbases, and tow it to the Bovinoid world. Why do this? Well, your GEMINI isn't used as a transport... its used as a Fighter builder. The Gemini can hold up to 400 fighters.. since its armed with 1 fighter bay. Take this ship to a bovinoid world, which is generating supplies every turn, and set its friendly code to "lfm" LOAD FIGHTER MINERALS... then every turn the Gemini will build you its maximum number of fighters which will supply your carriers. The Gemini has the capability to build 40 fighters a turn, provided you unload the 40 it builds every turn onto a Starbase or a carrier. So imagine what this does for your fighter production... very nice. Oh, and don't forget to set the Gemini's mission to "Build Fighters", that would help too.

Ok, so you have a good fighter production going, you are making money every turn, and have a good economy, and you should have LOTS of clans on your homeworld. So lets talk about what you need to be thinking about later on.

Further into the Game

As you have gotten further into the game, you have built Patriots, Tranquilities, Lady Royales, (just enough to make money), Geminis, and LDSFs. What about the other ships.. well lets talk about some of those other ships for a second...

Small Deep Space Freighter: Don't build it!

Taurus Class Scout: With two beams and no tubes, I really don't see a function for it.

Cygnus Class Destroyer: This ship only has a 50 cargo room, thus it doesn't due for laying mines, and with only one engine, in most games it can't tow.. so why have it?

Little Joe Class Escort: same as above, but it doesn't have torps.. the only thing I may build this ship for is transporting money back and force in my homeworld areas.

Aries Class Transport: This ship is basically a transport with beams.. Has a medium (260) cargo hold, so it has some use as an armed transport.. and it also generates gas from minerals... so it has some minor uses.. I don't build a lot of them though. The Cobols are much more efficient at making gas, and have just as much cargo room.

Sagittarius Class Transport: Has good cargo room, (300), and has 1 fighter bay and 2 beam weapons, so it has some use, it can make fighters for you in a pinch... and it has some uses in other Addons, but I don't make many of these either.

Scorpius Class Light Carrier: The only thing this ship has going for it is that it has a higher mass than the Patriot. But three patriots have just as many fighters, and aren't as expensive.. This ship with 4 Engines is just too expensive to make to justify its existence. You are better off saving the money and making a Virgo.

Gemini Class Transport: The Gemini is one of the best Colonial ( and Rebel) starships available. This ships power is derived, not by is ability in combat, but for its ability to make large amounts of fighters very quickly. The Gemini can be built cheaply and generate a huge fighter stockpile. If a Bovinoid world can be found that generates a great deal of daily supplies and minerals, the Gemini could be built with tech 1 engines and weapons, and be towed to this planet, and once there, could survive the game over this planet and never move. The Gemini will generate 1 fighter for every 3 Tritanium, 2 Moly, and 5 Supplies held on the Gemini a turn.. for a maximum of 40 fighters made a turn... if the fighters are offloaded to another ship. With this ship, there is no reason why the Colonies should ever need to spend a single MC on a fighter.

Iron Lady Class Frigate: With 8 Beams weapons and 2 tubes, this ship would make a good minesweeper.. however being the colonies, a Patriot can sweep just as many, if not more mines per turn than this ship. It has a very low mass (150), and low cargo, (60), so it really doesn't serve a function unless you want an expensive escort for your freighters.

Virgo Class Battlestar: Here is the workhorse and backbone of your fleet. These ships with their large cargo bay to hold up to 290 fighters, and their 10 beams, are very valuable to you. You team a Virgo up with a Cobol and you have an excellent attack force.

Now that I have talked about the ships, by the time you are into the mid-point of the game you should have built a Virgo or two. The Virgos play an important role in your conquest/defense. The Virgos can make fighters in space and do very well in combat. The Virgo however doesn't have a good combat record against other Races' heavy carriers. The Virgo is best used with right around 190 - 200 fighters, and use the empty space to store supplies to repair damage. A Virgo can use its fighters to sweep mines up to 200 lys away, which can really damage someone like the Robots or other minelaying races. You get a Virgo equipped with good mid-level beams and it's a good attack force. Early in the mid-point of the game, Virgos should be set with your Gemini's, and the Gemini's and Virgo together can "Build Fighters", with the Gemini transferring its fighters to the Virgo every turn... in a few turns the Virgo is ready to go.

Later Stages of game

Once you are into the later stages of the game, you should have a good mixture of ships in your fleet, but the backbone should be little task groups of Virgos and Cobols together. You may think about having your Cobols tow your Virgos around, thus not having high tech engines on your Virgos... well rethink it. A good opponent will target your Cobols, and if your Virgos don't have good engines, and your Cobols are suddenly gone, you simply have a big mass of Tritanium floating around. The Virgos are gas hogs though, so you may have need to have two Cobols with your force. These groups are what you are going to be using to fight with. I will combine two or three Virgos together with 2 or 3 Cobols, and may through in a Gemini, to help restock fighters. At least one of your Cobols should have tech 7 torps on it and be loaded with torps, to help lay minefields. The "drop and scoop" method of laying mines comes in handy while this group travels to deter any cloaking ships from "shadowing" this fleet. This fleet will be able to sustain itself into enemy territory without need of supplies of Neutronium. Thus this task force can reek havoc in an enemies territory because it has no need to take planets rich in gas to sustain itself. The backbone of this force is your Cobols, so protect them. Don't let them get into fights with other ships, that's what the Virgos are for. You have no worry of minefields, since your force can sit outside and minefield and watch it disappear!.... much to the frenzy and madness of the player who laid them.. it quite fun actually watching this...

Late in the game, since you have not been taxing your homeworld, you should get the maximum population on your homeworld quickly. By this time you should have built some Super Transport Freighters. They serve the function of taking your 2600 clans off your homeworld every turn, and populating your surrounding planets with them. You can do this every turn and come back and find your homeworld full of clans again. You can even tax them a little and get some extra cash. Couple the Super Freighters with a Cobol to keep them in gas... and you will see your homeplanets populating very fast. Be sure to keep some ships, like a couple of Patriots or Tranquilities in your rear area just in case a wayward cloaker shows up to try to disrupt your supply lines or other stuff... they can handle it.

With you populating your other planets, (the Bovinoid planets are good to populate)... you can build a massive supply of fighters for your Virgos, and have money to build torps for your Tranquilities to lay minefields for defense. By this stage of the game you should be a very awesome military power... and can project your power similar to the great Aircraft Carrier Task forces of the United States Navy... where they go they rule. Its very good for diplomacy too.

General Information and Strategy

The Colonies strengths and the value of their special abilities are not as obvious as those of the other races. One of the big strengths of the Colonies is their mine sweeping capability. The Colonies are the only race that can sweep minefields using their fighters. The Colonials have developed the ability to sweep mine fields in this manner. To keep their fighter pilots in practice, the Colonies developed the tactic of letting their fighter squadrons fly out up to 100 light years from the carrier and use their fighters to attack and destroy enemy mines.

Another ability that the Colonies have is the ability to build fighters in space. They can use free space in their carrier's cargo holds to build fighters. To do this the starship needs at least 3 Tritanium, 2 Moly, and 5 supply units for each fighter they wish to build. The primary mission for the ship must then be set to "Build Fighters", and the next turn the resources will be replaced with fighters.

Grand Strategy Overview

So lets go over some of the points I have made.

In the beginning of the game, the Colonies.. ( like everyone else) is pretty week. The first ship you should build is the Cobol. Load him up with Colonists and supplies and send him out. Use the ships Bioscanner to look for good native worlds to colonize. If you are starting out with a lot of money that is good.. If not, then I suggest building a Large Deep next.. Load it with Colonists and send it out also, following the Cobol with colonists to boost your colonies. Then build a couple of Lady Royales.. It is not necessary to build tech 10 engines or beams on them.. All you will be using them for is money.. So put 160 clans on each of them and leave them where they are... if you build 4 or 5 of them, you will have enough money generated every turn for whatever you want. I say this because you SHOULD NOT be taxing your homeworld at all... Set the tax rate to 0% and watch your clans GROW. In a matter of several turns you will be maxed out on population and sending clans out at 2600 per turn to other planets.. This is where your other ships come in.

Build groups of Super Transport Freighters.. And couple each freighter with two Cobols. These groups stay together.. The Cobols providing fuel for the Freighters.. And the freighters taking your colonists out to other worlds.

Now task groups are important for the Colonies... I am not talking about task forces of destroyers and cruisers and carriers. I am talking about task forces consisting of Cobols and Virgos. Here are your heavy hitters. For each Virgo you build.. You should be building one or two Cobols. These Cobols stay with the Virgos everywhere they go. It won't hurt to put a Gemini in there too. Have one of the Virgos tow the Gemini if you want... but this task force has an unlimited fuel supply and a big , steady supply of fighters. Thus these task forces can run independently and be used to harass an enemy's rear areas and supply lines without you worrying about having fueling locations. Usually a group of Two or three Virgos is good to have. It isn't a bad idea to have one of your Cobols loaded with torps too.. That way as they travel they can lay mines behind them.. To discourage any following cloaked ships.

Don't bother building those smaller ships, like the Cygnus or the Little Joe Escort. They don't really serve a function in a protracted game, and you could spend your resources on better ships. A couple of Patriots around your home worlds is good.. Just for the occasional cloaked raider or spy floating around. It is good to have a couple of Tranquilities also.. these ships would be the main mine laying ships of your fleet, with their large cargo hold, and torp tubes they can travel around your home area and lay massive mine fields.

Another note.... use the Virgos to their best ability... they have the ability to sweep mines from a distance of 100 lightyears using their fighters... with 290 fighters this is awesome... especially with two or three Virgos together... they take down a minefield with little effort. So don't go putting Virgos into a minefield to sweep it.. It isn't necessary, and too big a risk.. Sweep them from afar.. This really irritates other races when they see their nice big minefields reduced to nothing in one turn!!

Keep in mind. All the other races will wish an alliance with your or in the least a trade. They want your Cobols. Be careful how you give these away.. They are one of your most valuable tools against other races. Use them wisely.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to strategy for the Colonies.. but it should give you a head start. Good luck.

Monthly Help brought to you by Donovan!

Planetary populations

Of the 500 planets in the Echo Cluster, many are inhabited by natives. Additionally, you and the other players will work as hard as you can at colonizing the planets with your own clans. Usually, both native and colonist populations grow each turn. However, the Climate Death Rate (CDR) usually limits the amount of natives or colonist a planet can inhibit. At some point, the population stops growing and usually the colonist overpopulation will even die.

Population growth
On each planet that is colonized by one of the eleven races, the native population may grow, if the climate allows it. Native populations on unowned planets do not grow. Colonist populations also grow, if the planet's climate allows it. Population growth for natives and colonists follow different formulas, and then there are different formulas for Siliconoid natives and Crystalline colonists.

Native growth
Native populations grow each turn a planet is owned by someone, but growth is influenced and limited by a number of factors. Because of growth, a number of clans is added to the native population as long as two criteria are met:

* Happiness must be at 70 points or higher, including the effect of taxes imposed in the current turn. If happiness is currently below 70 but will rise to 70 or more points because of low (or no) taxing in the current turn, growth will occur. If taxing in the current turn will cause happiness to drop below 70 there will be no growth.
* The Growth limit (depending on the planet's temperature) may not be reached yet before the clans are added.

The Growth limit, often referred to as maximum population, is in the case of native populations not a hardline limit to the size of the population, but a limit above which there will be no more growth. A population that is just one clan smaller than the "maximum population" will have normal growth, likely bringing the population to exceed the Growth limit. From the next turn on there will be no more growth.

If for some reason (civil wars, meteor-impacts) the population drops below "maximum population" again, growth will occur by the same rules. If a number of natives die but the population stays above "maximum population" there will be no new growth.

Generally speaking, a native population will grow at 5% per month if the conditions are perfect. Perfect conditions mean no taxes and a good climate (50 for all races except the Silliconoids who prefer 100). Temperatures differing from the preferred climate impact growt in a negative way, as ofcourse do taxes.

The population growth formulas for all native species but Siliconoids are:
Clans added = ROUND[ SIN(3.14*((100-temperature)/100)) * (native clans/25) * (5/(taxrate+5)) ]
Growth limit = SIN(3.14 * ( (100-temperature) / 100)) * 150000

"Clans added" is the growth of the population, which is measured in clans. When a population is at or above the "Growth limit" it will not grow.

Siliconoid natives like hot planets, and have their best growth rates on those planets. The formulas for Siliconoid natives:
Clans added = ROUND [(temperature/100) * (native clans/25) * (5/(taxlevel+5)]
Growth limit = temperature * 1000

The number of native clans added is rounded (not truncated, as in many of Tim's formulas) Large populations grow slower than small populations: once a population exceeds 66,000 clans (6.6 million), the growthrate is halved - for all natives, the amount of clans added gets halved if before growth there are already more than 66000 clans.

Colonist growth
Colonist populations follow different rules and formulas when it comes to growth. They do not grow when:

* The temperature of the planet is below 15 degrees (Arctic planets)
* The temperature of the planet is above 84 degrees (Desert planets)
(this rule does not apply to Crystalline colonists, they actually love high temperatures)
* Colonist happiness is below 70 points or will drop below 70 points because of taxing in the current turn
* The Growth Limit is reached, based on the planet's temperature.

The growth limit for most colonist populations: Growth Limit = SIN(3.14*( (100-temperature) / 100) ) * 100000

For Crystalline players with the "Crystal desert advantage" Hconfig option set to Yes, the maximum population / growth limit is 1000*Temperature.

Under perfect conditions, a colonist population will grow at 4% per month. Perfect conditions mean the preferred temperature (50 for all races except the Crystalline who generally like 100 degrees, assuming 'crystal desert advantage' is set to it's default of YES in the host configuration) and ofcourse no taxes. Temperatures deviating from the preferred temperature and taxation are bad influences on growth.

As long as none of these criteria are met, a number of clans are added to the population by the following formula:
Clans added = ROUND [SIN(3.14*((100-temperature)/100)) * (colonist clans/20) * (5/(taxlevel+5)]

Crystalline colonists follow a different formula when the host-option "Crystals like deserts" is set to YES:
Clans added = ROUND [(temperature/100) * (colonist clans/20) * (5/(taxlevel+5)]

The number of colonist clans added is rounded (not truncated, as in many of Tim's formulas). For all races, the amount of clans added gets halved if before growth there are already more than 66000 clans.

The absolute maximum colonist population when the Hconfig option "Climate limits population" is set to No is 10,000,000 colonists (100,000 clans).

Population limits

Although a native population will not grow larger than it's growth limit, Native populations can have a size greater than this growth limit would suggest. The growth limit is not more than that: the number above which there will be no more growth. Native "overpopulations" won't die or eat supplies because of climate restrictions.

The growth limit for most native populations: Growth limit = SIN(3.14 * ( (100-temperature) / 100)) * 150000
Silliconoid natives have a more linear limit: Growth limit = temperature * 1000

When it comes to colonist populations, there are two options. On hot and cold planets -with temperatures above 84 or below 15 degrees- the maximum number of colonists is determined by several mechanisms and rules. On all other planets, there is just a plain formula to calculate the maximum population.

"Normal" planets
For planets where the temperature does not prevent growth, the maximum population for all colonists except the Crystals works rather simply:

Maximum population = SIN(3.14 * ( (100 - temperature) / 100) ) * 100000.

Crystalline colonists follow a different formula when the "Crystal desert advantage" is set to YES. Quite simply, with that setting Crystals can support 1000 clans (100,000 colonists) per degree:
Maximum population = 1000 * temperature.

Any colonists exceeding the maximum population will die, without any message or distress call to tell you.

Hot and cold planets: the Climate Death Rate
For planets hotter than 84 or colder than 15, special rules apply to the maximum population and which part of the overpopulations will die. The Climate Death Rate (CDR) is used to calculate which portion of the present clans will be labeled 'overpopulation'.

The absolute maximum amount of clans a desert or arctic planet can support (if 'overpopulation eats supplies' is not enabled), can be calculated using these formulas:

* Arctic: Abs.maxpop = TRUNC [ (299,9 + 200 * temp) / CDR]
* Desert: Abs.maxpop = TRUNC [ (20099,9-200 * temp) / CDR]

Exceptions to these formulas:

* Rebels can have up to 90,000 clans (9 million colonists) on any planet with a temperature of 19 degrees or less.
* Fascists, Robots, Rebels and The Colonies of Man can support a small outpost of 60 clans (6,000 colonists) on planets with temperatures higher than 80 degrees. The online documents and the Winplan helpfile are incomplete at this point, as only the Fascists and Robots are documented to have this advantage.
* Crystalline colonists follow a completely different formula when "Crystal desert advantage" is set to YES.
Quite simply, with that setting Crystals can support 1000 clans (100,000 colonists) per degree:
Abs.maxpop = 1000 * temperature.
This indeed means the Crystals can not have any clans on planets where the temperature is 0 (zero).

A hot or cold planet can have more colonists on it than would be allowed by these formulas, but as long as the population is greater than this maximum, each turn a part of the population will die. This continues until the population has decreased to the absolute maximum that is allowed based on the planet's temperature.

Each turn as long as the population is greater than the maximum population, the 'overpopulation' in that turn either dies or eats supplies to survive.

<<< Distress Call >>>
FROM: Fornacis 17
Planet ID# : 17
The climate is killing us!
The temp is 85 C
6 clans have died!
359 clans have survived.

(The mechanism to calculate how many clans die -or rather survive- each turn is on the details page.)

Overpopulation eats supplies
If a planet's colonist population exceeds the maximum population and the Hconfig option "overpopulations eat supplies" is set to Yes, a number of colonists greater than this maximum can stay alive by eating supplies available on the planet.

Cutting a rather long and complicated story short: effectively, every forty supply units present on the planet can sustain 100/CDR clans. At the default CDR of 10%, forty supply-units can thus sustain 10 clans above the 'absolute maximum population'. To sustain a population of 800 clans above the absolute maximum population you'd need 40*800/(100/10) = 40*80 = 3200 supply-units present on the planet to survive. Oddly, these 800 clans would only really "eat" three supply-units to survive.

(The mechanics and formulas used to calculate how many can survive per turn are explained on the details page.)

Overpopulation dies
Each turn, host calculates the "current maximum population", either through the regular formula or via the overpopulation eats supplies formulas, depending on the hostconfiguration. The planet's population is then checked against this number. If at this point the planet is found to be overpopulated (number of colonist clans is greater than this current value for the maximum population) the entire overpopulation dies.

Though this might seem to contradict popular belief that only a percentage (related to the Climate Death Rate) dies, it does not. Rather than regarding the CDR in the amount of dying overpopulation, the CDR is used to re-establish the current maximum population (based on the current number of clans) each turn until a stable situation is reached.

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

Playing Multiple Races in the same game

This is the second part of a series on having multiple races in the same game.

This section is directed mainly at players. Players may wonder how one gets around the problem of ships built by certain races, and how you view ships of certain races, when there are multiples of the same race in a game. Well, there are several options available to you as a player.

Option 1:
Do nothing. If you choose this option, basically you decide to "live" with the bitmaps you already have for each race. In other words if you are playing Race 6, which in this game is supposed to be, lets say, the Crystals, you would open your RST and play the turn, but all the bmps that you view would be for the Cyborg. You should note that due to the changes that the host has done for this game, you SHOULD NOT be seeing Borg ships in your build list, you SHOULD see Crystal ships. The only bmps that haven't changed are those for your Race, and messages, etc.

Option 2:
Change all the bmps in your main bmp directory to reflect the correct race you are playing. Now be warned, by doing this, you will change the bmps that are being used by all your other games also. This could cause some confusion when playing other games.

Option 3:
Intall a second PLAN directory, and change the bmps in that directory just for this game. This can solve the problem in Option 2 above, and will allow you to view the correct bmps for your race in this game.

Option 4:
If you are using WINPLAN, you do have the option of installing a separate bmp directory for EACH VPWORK directory. In other words, you created multiple bmp directories, that are read by each VPWORK directory. To simplify, let me show you an example. Below would be your directory structure for this setup:

--- bmp
--- bmp1
--- bmp2
--- bmp3
--- thru bmp8

--- thru vpwork8

What the above structure does is allows you to change the bmps that are used for each individual VPWORK(x) directory. You just have to be sure to have all the needed bmps in EACH bmp(x) directory or your WINPLAN will have an error and shut down.

As was covered in the April Newsletter, the host will have created several data files that the player has to put into the VPWORK(x) directory being used for that game. These include but are not limited to the following:


Bulletin Board

There is a new version of alt.games.vga-planets FAQ
This is the FAQ for alt.games.vga-planets. It's nowadays compiled, edited, and partly written by Akseli Mäki vgap@akseli.net, with assistance It is available here:
http://www.akseli.net/~akseli/vgap/alt.games.vga-planets.faq.html (HTML)
http://www.akseli.net/~akseli/vgap/alt.games.vga-planets.faq (text)

The three main ways of discussion of VGA Planets on the Internet are this newsgroup, alt.games.vga-planets, and the #vgaplanets IRC channel on EFNet. Then there are several mailing lists available too.

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