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ALIENS!

Author: Thore Schmechtig

Introduction
------------

They are big, black and malevolent.
They move unspeakably fast and kill silently.
They are perhaps the most terrifying nightmare of the universe.
Perhaps they did not even evolve naturally. Perhaps they are bioweapons.
If so, their creators surely regretted their crime for the short rest
of their lives.

I need not say more. We've all seen the movies - or haven't YOU?

Yes friends - it's the ALIENS. And this time they're invading the Echo cluster.

Copyright note
--------------

Just to make sure that I didn't forget this: ;)
VGA Planets is (C) by Tim Wisseman.
The BMP images used are screenshots from ALIENS II,
(C) 20th Century Fox. Great movie - one MUST have seen it!
As to the program itself: ALIENS! is freeware, but if you really like it,
I would not prevent you to make a small donation... :)
These files, however, may in no way be changed without my permission.

Installation and Setup
----------------------

Installing ALIENS! is simple. The host copies ALIENS!.EXE and ALIENCFG.EXE into the VPL main directory (this is where HOST.EXE and all those data files like HULLSPEC.DAT etc. are located).

Game hosts ONLY need the EXE files. Players do not really need anything special, but hosts should give copies of the BMPs to all their players who are using V3.5. The players can then copy the pic files into their BMP directory to really SEE the apocalypse when they meet the monsters...

To initialize the ALIENS, you only need to run ALIENCFG, with a command line parameter giving the path to the hostfiles. For example, if your host files are in the subdir "game1", you call the config program:

ALIENCFG game1

Configuring is very simple. All you have to do is entering the chance, in %, of unowned planets to be infected by ALIENS, and then the grade of immunity for the Privateers and Crystal People (see below).

Finally, the config routine will ask for a "picture base number". I included this because ALIENS!, after all, is not the only Add-On available using its own picture files for V3.5 players.

Normally, the BMPs of ALIENS! are named VPAUX666.BMP to VPAUX669.BMP. If the host uses another add-on whose BMP filenames collide with these, he can enter another base number. For example, if you enter a base number of 400 and rename the BMPs to VPAUX400.BMP .. VPAUX403.BMP, WinPlan will use these filenames instead. The only thing of importance is that you should not change the numerical order of the pictures, i. e. the former VPAUX666.BMP - the first of all four - should not get a new name placing it second etc.

The config program will show you the IDs of all infected planets and will save them - and the data about infected ships - in the file "ALIENS!.HST" among the other host files.

If an ALIENS!.HST already exists, you can change its contents. The simple menu system for doing this should be self-explanatory...

To add the ALIENS to your game, simply edit the AUXHOST1.BAT by adding ALIENS!.EXE with the path to the host files as command line parameter. (Or, if an AUXHOST1.BAT does not yet exist, create it in the VPL main directory where HOST.EXE resides). Example, with host files in subdir "game1":

(AUXHOST1.BAT:)
ALIENS! game1

Now that I told you how to use the program itself, let's talk about what it does within the game. Hosts have two options here:

  1. The ones with a sense for fairness may copy the following infos and give them to their players.
  2. However, if Mr. Host feels sadistic, he need not tell the players about the existence of ALIENS in the game universe... just let the players run into the monsters. Every time a player meets the beasts for the first time in the game, he will receive a VPL message informing him about all possible countermeasures to get rid of the predators...

"Just what is this Add-On all about?!"
--------------------------------------

There are strange creatures on some unsettled planets. Creatures that prey upon natives (if any) and also attack any colonists setting their feet on their home turf.

If they (let's just call them ALIENS) would be content with terrorizing these worlds, they would be just a nuisance. Avoid them and everything will be alright.

The problem is: They want new worlds to conquer. And their best ally is the curiosity of intelligent (HA!) spacefarers. You know, there is always some joker aboard a spacecraft who likes to play with the transporter systems. And sooner or later they beam aboard more than they want...!

The ALIENS are waiting for such opportunities. Once one of them has been beamed aboard, it's on his home turf again. The countless air ducts and other cavities of a spacecraft are a perfect hiding place for the predator, and soon an "infected" ship's crew will be killed, replaced by ALIENS. Where do more beasts come from? Well, you see, these beings are parasites... they use living bodies as hosts for their young. So a crew of 100 becomes 100 host bodies for 100 new ALIENS...

"So a ship orbiting an infected planet gets infected. What happens then?"
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

The infected craft SEEMS to respond to commands of the player as normal. But the ALIENS will ignore certain commands and in fact use the ship for their purpose. This purpose is: Seek out worlds not yet populated by ALIENS and infect them. That means:

  • An infected ship's mission will be set to EXPLORATION, with 1 exception:
  • The ALIENS like cloaking devices. They will activate any such device if their ship has one. This makes them much more dangerous.
  • They will change their ship's friendly code every turn. To make it simpler for players to keep track of what ships are infected, the FCode always consists of the letters "ALN", every single one of them sometimes written normal, sometimes capital - so you would not EXACTLY know what FCode an infected enemy ship would have...(VPL 3.5 users of course don't need such help due to the built-in note-pad function, but there are still many who play V3.0... :) )
  • They will set the ships primary enemy to NONE because they want the ship for transport only, not to attack. So even an infected Biocide or Gorbie will not behave aggressively... although it WOULD fight back with full power to defend itself.
  • They ruthlessly kill any colonists aboard and dump all other cargo, to make their ship lighter and increase its range. "Cargo" means Tritanium, Duranium, Molybdenum and Supplies. If the ship is orbiting a planet, you will find that cargo on its surface later. If in space, it is lost forever.They WILL keep aboard any torpedoes and fighters. Sorry, but even ALIENS like to defend themselves... They will also keep aboard any money. They just don't care for wealth.
  • If orbiting a planet belonging to their ships race (or neutral), they will refuel using the planets available fuel. Automatic cargo transfer systems are a DISadvantage here because they don't see if the transmitted orders come from a human or ALIEN.
  • They set the warp factor to the best value possible to save fuel: Starting with the maximum possible without overthrust, they will choose the lowest warp factor that will let them reach their target without spending more time. For example, if their target is 120 LY away, they will rather travel at warp 8 than warp 9 because travel time is the same and it may possibly save some fuel. (This is true, you can prove it by doing some testing... :) )
  • If their ships fuel tanks have less than 2 KT of Neutronium left, they will choose the maximum warp factor that will let them travel WITHOUT actually using up fuel. For example, a Small Freighter with Transwarp engines and a total mass of 39 KT will travel at Warp 5. This of course is meaningless if the "Ships without fuel can move" setting has been disabled in the host configuration and the ships fuel tanks are completely empty... ;) ...always funny to exploit the little weaknesses of computer maths, don't you think? ;)
  • They will also make use of gravitonic accelerators, if their ship is equipped with them. This means they will set waypoints up to 162 LY away.

The ALIENS instinctively feel what worlds are already infected and what are not. They will head straight for the nearest ALIEN-free planet. Once there, they will infect this world (meaning, beam down some of them to build a nest there) and move on to the next planet. Only when all worlds in the Echo cluster have been infected will they stop and wait motionless wherever their ship happens to be at the moment.

"So much for the ships. What happens if a colonized planet is infected?"
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Every ALIEN clan will kill one clan of colonists every turn. This can be prevented by defense posts. Every defense post will stop one ALIEN clan from preying upon colonists.

Normally, the defenses will also protect any natives on the planet, though to a lesser extent. If the situation gets critical, the colonists can be told not to care for anything else and protect only themselves.

This "F**k for natives" order is given by assigning the planet the friendly code "NMN", meaning "N)o M)ercy for N)atives!". If this code has been given, every defense post will stop TWO ALIEN clans, but the natives will have to face the apocalypse on their own. And remember, natives are by far not as well-equipped as colonists of a spacefaring race. ALIEN ground attacks prove painful to colonists, but DEVASTATING to natives!

(The NMN-code will always work, even if there are no natives)

Now there is a chance to get rid of the menace. If there are more defenses than ALIEN clans on a planet, the "free" defenses will counterattack, killing one clan of ALIENS every turn... until the planet is cleaned. This is compatible with the "NMN"-code, so a free defense post on an "NMN"- planet kills two ALIEN clans per turn.

Examples:

100 ALIEN clans on the planet, 20 Defenses:
100 - 20 = 80 colonist clans will die per turn

100 ALIEN clans, 20 defenses, friendly code "NMN":
100 - (20 * 2) = 60 clans per turn

55 ALIEN clans, 56 defenses:
all colonists are protected, 1 free defense kills one ALIEN clan.

55 ALIEN clans, 40 defenses, friendly code "NMN":
55 - (40 * 2) = -25, so 25 ALIEN clans will be killed.

Soon the planet will be cleaned.

Note: One "ALIEN clan" is NOT equal to 100 ALIENS. The term "clan" is only used because it's the common unit of measurement for populations in VGA planets. I guess ALIENS could only be grouped in... ummm... swarms or something. But that's irrelevant for VPL... :)

"Well, I play the Lizards / Fascists. What about Ground Combat Bonus?"
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Good point. But consider:
The planets need their DEFENSE POSTS to stop the assaulting ALIEN hordes. I mean, these are the really BIG guns - the ones used to crush whole spacecrafts. The individual fighting power of the colonists is simply irrelevant here - without their ultra-heavy weapons the colonists just do not have a chance...

"And what about me, a Robot player? How can a Robot be infected?!"
------------------------------------------------------------------

Another good point. But you know, in VGA Planets Robots can die from too much cold or heat... so what? Do you really exspect me to be more logical than Tim Wisseman himself? ];>

"So I can clean infected planets. What about infected ships?"
-------------------------------------------------------------

The infected ships remain part of your own fleet, that means you cannot simply attack and destroy them. There is, however, a way to stop them.

You see, every ship has a certain code that - if transmitted via radio - triggers the self-destruct devices aboard. In game terms, every ship that is at the same position as an infected craft and has its friendly code set to "DIS" ( D)estroy I)nfected S)hip ) will trigger the explosion of the infected vessel. All ALIENS aboard the ship will of course be killed.

The DIS code does only destroy infected ships of your own race. Other races have to attack and destroy the craft normally (KILL Mission etc.).

"So all races are subject to the ALIEN terror. Or are there exceptions?"
------------------------------------------------------------------------

That depends on the mood of the host. If he wants to, then...
...there are two races in the game that need not care for the ALIENS. Scientists of the Crystal People have by chance discovered that a special energy impulse, called the "Death Pulse", will instantly kill the monsters. Soon after they made that discovery, Privateer commandos stole the plans for the Death Pulse generators, so they can do the same thing today. All colonies and ships of the Privateers and Crystal People are now routinely equipped with Death Pulse generators.

This means, in game terms:

  • Every starship or planet owned by the Crystal People or Privateers is instantly cleaned by the Death Pulse.
  • Every infected starship belonging to another race that meets a Crystalline / Privateer ship will also be sterilized by a Death Pulse sent to it automatically. One Crystal / Privateer pilot will then beam aboard the sterilized craft and take it over. Of course, a cloaked infected ship will not show up on the scanners and cannot be cleaned.

Even better is the following option, also to be (de-)activated by the host at configuration:

There are two ships that can clean an infected planet from orbit. TheCrystal People installed a huge Death Pulse generator in their Topaz gunboats, and these blueprints were also stolen by the Privateers. They, however, used their heavier Dwarfstar transports as mobile bases for the big weapon.

If a Topaz or Dwarfstar orbits an infected planet and has its friendly code set to "ODP" ( O)rbital D)eath P)ulse ), it will burn 1 KT of fuel to generate a planet-wide lethal energy shock that instantly kills all the ALIENS down on the world. But don't worry about using up your last fuel... the crew will only turn on the weapon if there will be at least 1 KT of Neutronium left after the action. This means that someone can absolutely protect an important planet against ALIEN invasion by placing an ODP-capable ship there, with its FC set. As soon as there are ALIENS detected on the world, they will be automatically killed before they can do any damage. And note that this ability is ship-, not race-depen-dent, just like (for example) a cloaking device.

Some thoughts:
--------------

The presence of ALIENS in the Echo cluster will provide some political "hot stuff" to usually peaceful alliances. If your neighbor's warship is heading for your worlds, and he assures that the ship is infected and he does not have any control anymore, does he tell the truth? Or is he just pretending that, to probe your territory - or worse?

There is also ONE distinct advantage to the presence of ALIENS: They eat EVERYTHING. Even amorphous natives. So a newly-infected planet that was previously plagued by amorphous natives will not have BOTH problems for long... Of course, you then have to get rid of the ALIENS on your own. Perhaps the fascist Glory Device remains the better alternative... ;)

Of course, if the Crystal People and Privateers are immune to the ALIEN danger, you could say this imbalances the game. But as far as I know, there are more than a few who say that these races' inability to clone captured ships is a major handicap... so maybe this add-on RESTORES balance. Of course that is a decision of the host and players in the individual game.
(For honesty's sake: Yes, I'm a Crystal fan too... ;) )

Hey - if you don't like it, don't use it! :)

And something just occurs to me...
...it should be possible to use infected ships as bioweapons, towing an infected ship to an enemy world and waiting for the beasts to infect the planet (The ALIENS will do this to any world, no matter how their ship got there). Who knows? It could be a potent way of harming your foe.

Finally
-------

DISCLAIMER: I do not in any way guarantee that the program will not prove harmful to a running VPL game. The only thing I can assure is that it will eat up some hard drive space.

Of course, if there are some errors I have not yet found, I'm willing to correct them. If you find such an error or would like to make a suggestion, please contact me:

(snail mail address)
Thore Schmechtig
Ritterstrasse 37
31174 Schellerten
GERMANY

e-mail:
Thore Schmechtig @ 2:2437/310.7 (FidoNet)
" " @ 70:712/121.7 (VPLNet)
(Sorry, no Internet address... yet)

In very urgent cases, you can call me:
Phone: 5123-4784

And now, enough discussion. They are out there! Right now they're infecting another peaceful world! GO OUT AND STOP THEM!

That is - IF YOU CAN... ];>

 
 
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