INFORMER was originally conceived as a simple utility that would display display minefields graphically. However, I have had the misfortune(?) to play VGAP with scientists/engineers (who have an endless appetite for data and statistics) and programmers (who know it's possible to supply the data).
I succumbed to a tiny percentage of the pressure, and now INFORMER offers the following features:
Extended VGAP-type F4 Galaxy display
Minefields (suprise, suprise)
Ship locations and historical flightpaths
* Ship waypoints (future path)
* Planetary defence strength (variable diameter rings)
* Hyperjump ships highlighted
Ships in orbit - own and other races
Note markers (see below)
Borders (avoid faux pas with your allies!)
Allied Information sharing
Partial - automatic data exchange via message
Full - view allied RST files along with your own
All known ships in game - with race and Id
* Sorted happiness list for all your own planets
Planets with native life (sorted by race)
Starbase data, including complete "stock" information
Ship data, including cargo, historical weights.
* Planetary defence tables, relating #posts to #beams, etc
* Distance between any two points, with bearing
* Tax (you'll be suprised how much extra you'll extort)
Climate - projection of population growth, etc
* Minefield - what field will I get with my 80 Mark 8's
Hyperjump - plot your course precisely
Review messages sent
Send identical mesage to several races
Definable Filters for message reading
Fast movement through message base (20 at a time) Search for text
* "Bookmark", allowing return to last message read.
* Jump to context of message - ship, planet, etc.
Searchs (planet, ship, etc) based on partial string
Locate planets based on search filters (minerals, etc)
Fuel consumption estimates for any distance
* Limited order issuing - movement, mission, Hypjump & tax
* Rule-based auto-construction on planets
* Fuel-saving waypoint adjustment "using" warpwells
AFSIM data export
Export actual ship data to AFSIM, the VGAP battle Sim.
The design philosophy of INFORMER has always been to provide the player with as much derived information as possible...anything that you can work out for yourself with the help of a calculator. The corollary of this philosophy has been that INFORMER does not use data that may be contained inside an RST file but which is not available to the player through the PLANETS interface. An example of this is the integer value of colonist/native happiness.
INFORMER is shareware and can be used successfully without registration. However, all the features listed above that are marked with a * are disabled in the unregistered version. See REGISTER.DOC for prices and registration details.
INFORMER HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS.
IBM PC or compatible, 80286 or higher
512 Kb RAM
VGA Graphics Card
Microsoft compatible Mouse
As far as possible, INFORMER has been specifically designed to be fully compatible with the hardware requirements of VGA Planets v3.0. With the exception of a mouse, this also implies some self-imposed restraints. For this reason, INFORMER does not use expanded or extended memory. Neither does it use SVGA graphics (even though that might have made my life a bit easier).
Unzip the contents of the INFORMER archive into your VGAP program directory and you are ready to go. The archive contains the following files:
INF.EXE INFORMER executable.
INF.DEF VGAP message definitions
INF.DOC This file (duhhh!).
INFDEF.DOC Configuration documents for INF.DEF.
REGISTER.DOC INFORMER registration details.
REB.BAT Skeleton batch file for rebuilding turn history.
SAVE.BAT Skeleton batch file for archiving RST files.
MIX.EXE Define your own INFORMER colour palette.
INFORMER must be executed from the VGAP program directory, as it needs to reference VGAP data files, and can accept a path to a game subdirectory in the same way as PLANETS.EXE. i.e.:
See INFDEF.DOC for a description of how to run multiple INF.DEF files.
INFORMER will not load if:
a) A mouse driver is not detected.
b) An invalid path is used to start the program.
c) A copy of INF.DEF cannot be found.
d) INF.DEF contains one or more invalid message definitions.
e) Required VGAP data files are not found.
f) No unpacked RST file in specified location.
Each problem produces a descriptive error message.
INFORMER DATA ENTRY SCREEN CONVENTIONS
The following keys have similar functionality throughout all INFORMER data entry screens:
[F10] Process all data entered, and exit screen. You can press this key no matter how few or how many fields you have edited.
[Enter] Accept field value.
[Esc] Exit screen without saving data.
The [Up] and [Down] arrow keys are used to move from field to field and work in the same way as the [Enter] key if data has been changed.
Some fields can contain only a limited number of values (such as yes/no). You can toggle between the different values using the left and right arrow keys.
In fully editable fields, only data to the left of the cursor is accepted by INFORMER. Everything else is trimmed. As an example, you can edit a mine scan range of 200 to a range of 25 merely by typing 25 and then pressing [Up], [Down] or [Enter].
All fields will default to the maximum allowable value if you type a value that is higher than the maximum. For instance, if you enter a value of 20 for the torpedo slot number in the mine field calculator the field will automatically revert to TL 10 as soon as you press [Enter] or move to another field.
On-screen help will tell you whether you are dealing with a toggle or fully editable field.
INFORMER MAIN MENU
The INFORMER main menu displays 11 slots, each one of which deals with one game. This allows you to work with 11 races from one game or 11 different games...or something inbetween. The exception is with allied RST sharing, in which 1 slot can conceivablely allow you to simultaneously view all 11 races in one game...a bonus for hosts.
Slot information is broken up into 3 columns:
Slot Number - hexadecimal (1-9, plus A and B)
Slot Name - Defined by you.
Status - Is the slot active?
The first time you run INFORMER, all 11 Slot Names will be "Unused". To configure a slot for a game that you are playing, enter a number of an unused slot. You will then be presented with a configuration data entry screen with the following fields:
A short text to help you differentiate between slots.
eg: "AECI BBS - Lizards"
Type the race number of the race that *you* are playing (i.e, 6 = The Cyborg), or use the left and right arrow keys to select a race. The race-type can determine things such as the amount of tax collected or the population growth rate on certain planets.
* Mine decay rate (Integer 0-100):
The natural shrinkage rate of mine fields. INFORMER uses this rate to estimate the size of mine fields for which you have no current sweep information...an estimate that may be wrong if another race is sweeping fields when you are not looking!
* Web mine decay rate (Integer 0-100):
Same as above.
Turns of history (Integer 1-7):
This field determines how many turns of history will be displayed for -
Ship paths (X,Y positions).
Game Score (if available).
and is useful if, for instance, you decide the screen is too cluttered with long ship paths. No matter how many turns of history you choose to display, INFORMER will always store the data for the maximum number of turns...meaning that no display data will ever be lost if you change your mind about the optimum value of this field.
Passcode (Integer 0-9999):
The passcode is intended for use by allies that share information via messages that INFORMER can generate automatically (see below). Any valid passcode other than 0 will be embedded in these messages, hopefully ensuring that other players cannot send you false messages in the name of your ally or allies. It is important that allies use the *same* passcode...or INFORMER will reject valid information as being bogus.
Max wormholes (Integer 0-50):
This field is only needed if your game is using the third party wormhole utility.
* Mine scan range (Integer 0-4000):
The maximum range at which mine fields can be detected by a ship using the "Mine Sweep" mission.
* Mine sweep range (Integer 0-4000):
The furthest distance that a ship can be from a mine field and still destroy mines using the "Mine Sweep" mission. Note: if only a single mine in a field is within sweeping distance, then the ship will be able to sweep its full complement of mines from that field.
* Mine sweep rate (Integer 0-200):
This is the multiplying factor applied in the calculation of the number of mines that a ship can sweep.
Note alert priority (Integer 0-7):
Any INFORMER note (see below for definition) that has a higher priority than the value entered in this field will be automatically displayed every time that INFORMER first reads game data from disk.
When you have configured all the fields to your satisfaction and pressed [F10], INFORMER will read the unpacked RST data and present you with a VGAP F4-type map.
Note: all fields marked "*" should have the same values as those defined by the Host in HCONFIG. In Turn 1 of a game, all of the HOST settings are transmitted to players in the form of messages. Thereafter, a complete new set of messages is transmitted by the HOST every time any change is made in HCONFIG. INFORMER is capable of understanding these messages and will automatically make the required updates to the slot configuration.
INFORMER MAP DISPLAY
Note: In order that INFORMER may be used succesfully with the greatest variety of VGA monitors and display cards, all colours on the INFORMER map display can be changed using the accompanying palette utility MIX.EXE. However, all reference to specific colours in these documents refer to the DEFAULT colour pallette.
The top two lines of the map show information relevent to the current mouse position.
Example from a game in progress:
2019 2934 Ship : 345 Proletarian Renewal Planet : 491 Tesmond
Turn : 97 Bang : Egret
2019 2934: XY co-ordinates of the mouse.
Ship: VGAP ID and name of the visible ship closest to the mouse cursor. It seems that the Evil Empire is playing in this game.
Planet: VGAP ID and name of planet closest to the mouse cursor.
Turn: Turn number for the information currently shown on screen.
Bang: Name of ship explosion closest to the mouse cursor.
The Ship, Planet, and Bang fields are filtered so that data will only be displayed for objects that are within 70 light years of the mouse cursor - one or more of the fields may therefore be blank.
With the exception of "Turn:", all the fields will continuously update as the mouse cursor is moved around the screen.
The Ship and Planet field values are written in 1 of four colours:
Green indicates that it belongs to you.
Yellow indicates that it belongs to an allied race.
Red indicates it belongs to the enemy.
Cyan indicates that ownership is undetermined. (Planets only)
The turn field is displayed in cyan for the current turn, and in yellow for past turns.
Below this data appears a window on to the universe in which you can see planets, ships, ship paths, explosions, mine fields, and more:
A planet for which no information is known, and which may be unowned.
White Dot With Two Small Yellow Arcs:
A planet with some known information but the race of the owner unknown. The planet may also be unowned. Meteorstrike and exploration messages provide this kind of partial information.
White Dot Ringed By A Tiny Coloured Circle:
A planet whose ownership is known by you. Pink is an enemy planet, cyan an allied planet and blue a planet owned by you.
White Dot With A Coloured Square:
A Starbase whose ownership is known, with colours as for planets.
White Dot Ringed By A Small Coloured Circle:
A planet being orbited by a ship. The presence of your own ships is shown with a green circle, with yellow circles for allied ships and red circles for enemy ships. The red ring has a slighter larger diameter than the green or yellow rings, allowing you to quickly see when one of your (or your allies') ships are in orbit around the same planet as an enemy ship.
A ship in deep space; own/allied/enemy respectively.
Tinted Grey Lines:
Tinted grey lines are used to indicate historical ship flight paths, the colour of the tint being the same as that used to indicate the ship at the end of the path. So, the paths of your own ships are indicated by lines that are grey tinted with green. INFORMER stores information from past turns in order to display flight paths. The number of turns of flight path that are shown will depend on:
The configuration of INFORMER (see above)
The amount of available history (i.e., in a young game)
Game variables - there will be no history that a ship that has only just flown into scan range.
INFORMER will project enemy ship paths backwards, given both warp speed and bearing information. This might help pinpoint particular planets which are being visited by enemy ships or indicate a point at which a ship had been cloaked. If bearing information is lacking, INFORMER will join those ship positions that *are* known with a dotted (and tinted) grey line. This might not indicate the actual course, but it will show the overall result.
Light Grey Lines:
Projected courses for your own ships, based on orders already issued. The actual waypoint is indicated with a tiny grey "+". As in PLANETS itself, a waypoint can be carried forward from turn to turn if a ship cannot complete a journey in one turn.
Light Blue Lines:
Borders drawn on the map by the player.
The position at which a ship hits a mine without exploding. Note that this information is only available to the race that laid the mine, the race that hit the mine...and their respective allies if RST files are being shared.
Note marker: can be free-floating in space, or attached to a ship or planet. Notes attached to ships will move with the ships.
Red And Yellow Blob:
A ship that has exploded.
Dull cyan line:
A user-drawn line used, for instance, to mark a boundary between allied spheres of influence.
Grey = Your own.
Cyan = Allied. Beware...you are not immune!
Yellow = Enemy.
INFORMER will draw minefields based on sweep reports. The size of the circle exactly represents the field. In the absence of up to date reports, will decay the fields according to the HOST settings that have been entered into the INFORMER configuration. This may not be accurate - but it shows the situation according to the best available information.
Dotted Circle in Conjunction with Minefield Circle:
Red = predicted effect of minesweeping of an field. This takes into account the sweep range, sweep rate, and Ship ID's of those ships that are sweeping. Remember that a low ID ship with weak beams can sometimes destroy enough mines that your high ID ship with potent beams is now out of sweep-range. The registered INFORMER function that allows you to set ship missions will allow you to speedily investigate this kind of situation. It will also allow you to "set" minesweep missions for enemy ships so that you can see how your own minefields will be affected.
Other= The predicted minefield size...when the actual size turns out to be significantly different from the prediction. The prediction is derived from sweep reports from a previous turn, the actual size from this turn's reports. When the dotted circle is inside the solid circle it means that additional mines have been laid into the field. When the dotted circle is outside the solid circle it means that the field has been partially swept. The actual colour of the dotted rings are the same as for the corresponding minefield. i.e., grey, cyan, or yellow.
Solid Circle with Rectangles:
A web minefield is indicated by a circle with small rectangles at the NSEW quadrants. Unless you are the Crytal race, or an ally of the Crystals and using RST sharing, then web minefields will look like normal minefields. INFORMER allows you to edit a minefield so that it will display as a web minefield.
Dark Blue Dotted Circle:
These circles are centered around planets and indicate the defence strength of the planet. This strength takes all relevent factors into account, including starbase fighters and defence. The diameter of the circle is derived from the strength via a squared relationship.
Support For Wormhole Utility
INFORMER supports Hans-Jocken Kirchhoff's program WORM v0.34 Beta. The drawing of Wormholes will no longer be accurate if the formula in WORM is changed in a later version of the utility.
Wormhole entrance = brown ring.
Wormhole route = brown line
Two-way wormhole = two brown rings joined by a brown line.
INFORMER MAP KEYS
List of INFORMER keys.
Allows the creation of a free-floating note, or aide-memoire, at the current mouse XY location. Notes can also be created for ships and for planets, but only whilst viewing these objects (see sections on left mouse button and right mouse button/[F5]).
Pressing [N] will present you with a screen containing the following fields:
Assigned by INFORMER - Marker/ship/planet.
Ship and planet notes will use the respective VGAP ID. The IDs of free-floating notes are assigned by INFORMER.
Priority (Integer 0-7):
Every time that you start INFORMER, the number that you enter in this field will be compared with the note priority defined in the INFORMER configuration screen for this particular game. If the priority of the note is higher than the "alarm-level" defined in the configuration then the note will be dispalyed on start-up.
Five lines in which you may enter free-form text.
Left mouse button:
Clicks to the closest ship position within 70 LY and pops up details for the ship(s) at that location in two boxes.
The left-hand box lists information as follows:
234 Empire Karelia ³
429 Empire Bashkortostan ³
234 Ship #ID
Empire Ship Race
Karelia Ship Name
The text colour is Green/Yellow/Red to indicate Own/Allied/Enemy. The first ship on the list is highlighted. The highlight can be moved using the up or down arrow keys, or by pointing at the desired ship with the mouse and left-clicking.
The right-hand box lists ship details for the ship that is highlighted in the left hand box:
SUPER STAR FRIGATE Damage 15
Bearing : 45 Warp : 9/9
Beams : 5 Heavy Blaster
Tubes : 3 Mark 4 Photon
Cargo hold : 3/ 80
Fuel tanks : 1/ 180
Hull mass : 150
Crew : 101/102
Mission : Exploration FC : NTP
Trit : 0 Dura : 0 Moly : 0
Clans : 0 Mega : 0 Supl : 0
Torpedoes : 3
Weight 195 Turn 124
Weight 195 Turn 123
Weight 211 Turn 122
Weight 211 Turn 121
Weight ??? Turn 120
Weight ??? Turn 119
Weight 197 Turn 118
1) A "?" or "???" is used to indicate that data is unknown.
2) The damage field will be entirely blank if the ship is undamaged or if the damage is unknown. After a battle, INFORMER does not know the damage for enemy ships because this information is only worked out by physically running VCR.EXE; the information is not contained in a DAT file or in a message.
3) Crafty enemies can fly their ships in such a way that bearing information is never or rarely known. Even if INFORMER lists the bearing as "?" it may still be able to display the heading graphically as a ship path...if the ship position was known in the previous turn.
4) The warp speed is given as current speed/engine tech. 7/6 is a ship with warp 6 engines travelling at warp 7.
5) The Tubes and Torpedoes fields are titled Bays and Fighters, where appropriate.
6) Weapon types will only be known for enemy ships after they have been met in battle. The engine tech of an enemy ship is only known if that ship has belonged to you previously. Also, the information may not be correct if the enemy has used Fed Super-Refit.
7) The cargo, fuel, and crew fields display current/maximum data.
8) FC = friendly code.
9) The bottom section of the display box lists historical weights for the ship. The ship in the example is an "own" ship (which is why the information on damage/cargo/ordnance is complete) but was recently in enemy hands...hence the "???" weight display for turns 119 and 120. The historical weight information can be used for spotting when enemy ships are loading/unloading cargo.
INFORMER creates a seperate record for every ship that is known about. An enemy ship can fly out of range of your scanners and then return later and you will still have correct information on weapons (assuming you knew this information in the first place). The only problem with this is that INFORMER is not able to automatically keep track of all enemy ships that are recycled, colonised, or destroyed by a "third force" (not a reference to the South African political scene).
INFORMER supports the HOST messages from HOST v3.20, in which ship explosion messages contain ship #ID information. This improves the automatic tracking of ships - but players still do not know about recycled and colonised ships.
The result is that, when an enemy ship is close enough to detect but not close enough to view, you will occasionally notice discrepancies such as an enemy Small Freighter with an apparent mass of over 1000 tonnes. This could be a real freighter towing something like a cloaked Darkwing. Alternatively, it could be a genuine heavy ship...such as a Biocide that is low on fuel...and INFORMER is merely labelling the ship incorrectly.
There are two things that you can do. If you are certain that INFORMER is incorrect then highlight the problem ship in the left-hand box and hit the [Del] key. The ship record will still be visible until the next time you enter INFORMER. At this time it will be deleted...and immediately recreated for the "new" ship. The ship-type will be labelled as "unknown" but you will have correct race, ID, and position information. Alternatively, if you ignore the possible bogus information, then the record will be automatically re-created by INFORMER as soon the enemy ship is within view range.
There are several functions that can be performed whilst viewing a ship using from the "left mouse" list:
* Pressing [X] will bring up a red course line, similar in operation to the course line in PLANETS, with a distance meter and fuel consumption meter in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Just as in PLANETS itself, if no waypoint has been set previously then the course line will initially have length zero. If a waypoint has been set previously then the initial course-line will indicate this. The colour of the meters is yellow, which will change to red to indicate that the consumption estimate exceeds the current fuel load on the ship. The course line can be extended across the universe and the meters will update accordingly. The estimate of fuel consumption is identical to the estimate that would be given by PLANETS itself and does not take into account the fuel saved as the ship becomes lighter through the consumption of fuel. The overestimate of fuel consumption is therefore greater as the distance to be flown increases.
Pressing [X] a second time will exit this mode, whilst [Alt-X] will set a waypoint for the ship. A waypoint that is set outside the PLANETS "viewbox" is not accepted by the HOST. Therefore, the waypoint will be truncated, if necessary, to fit within the "viewbox".
* Pressing [H] will bring up a red course line and a 350 ly radius ring, centered on the ship. The intersection of the line and the ring indicates where the ship will move to with a Hyperjump. The [X] and [Alt-X] keys work as above. Additionally, [Alt-X] will set the ship friendly code to HYP and the speed to warp 1 (so as to minimise fuel use), but will not adjust the fuel load. INFORMER does not itself know which ships are jump capable: this is to allow for HOST changes. Do not be suprised when you set a HYP mission for a freighter and it only moves 1 ly!
INFORMER can also accomodate the planning of a course for a HYP ship that is capable of jumping twice on one fuel load. If you are viewing a ship list click either button to clear the display.
Move your mouse pointer to your desired *final* destination.
Press [H] to draw a 350 ly radius ring.
Press [D] to "drop" the ring onto the screen.
Select your HYP ship and press [H].
The intercepts of the red rings are the 2 possible Jump 1 targets.
Move your mouse to one of these 2 points and press [Alt-X].
The mission will now be set and both HYP rings will be cleared.
* Pressing [M] will pop up a list of ship missions. Move the cursor to the desired mission and press [Enter]. All race-specific missions (such as Super-Spy) are listed as "special". Ordering a non-cloaking ship to cloak will not make the ship cloak.
* [N] allows the creation of a Note for the ship that will "attach" itself to the ship and move with it from turn to turn, until deleted. A ship Note has additional functionality over the "Marker" Note that is assigned to an XY location in space. As an example, multiple wayppoints can be defined for the ship. See [R] function.
Right mouse button / [F5]
If there is a planet name on the first row (within 70 ly of the mouse pointer) then a click on the right mouse button will call up the details for that planet in a pop up box.
456 Koruim Temp : 52 -1 FC : [eq
Colonists : Empire 509
Tax : 0 Happy
Natives : Bovinoid 33851 Early-Tribal
Tax : 3 Calm
Neutronium 529 3 Concentrated
Tritanium 717 3 Dispersed
Duranium 840 4 Large Masses
Molybdenum 1702 5400 Dispersed
Starbase Defence : 200
Defence posts : 71
Planetary fighters : 8
Starbase fighters : 45
Fighters launch bays : 13
Number of beams : 10
Beam technology : 6
Effective mass : 471
1) A "?" or "???" is used to indicate that data is unknown. Data will usually be largely unknown for enemy planets - although Evil Empire and The Birdmen can fill in a lot of blanks using their special missions.
2) The temperature field indicates the actual temperature, as well as the change from the previous turn. In this case there is a single Eros Class Research Vessel in orbit around the planet.
3) The population of both colonists and natives is given in clans.
4) The effective mass is the mass that will be used by VCR for calculating shield strength and resistance to damage.
5) Information can be out of date if, for example, the planet has been captured from you or has not been "Dark Sensed" for a few turns. If applicable, the age of the information will be displayed in red in the blank space at the bottom of the table.
Pressing [N] whilst viewing planet details allows the creation of a Note for the planet. Planet notes behave in the same way as Marker notes.
Middle Mouse Button / [B]
If the Bang field on the second line of the screen contains any information, then either of these options will give you a pop-up box with a complete list of all explosions that occured at the same co-ordinates this turn.
Numeric keys 1-7
These keys enable you to look back in turn history, with key  being the current turn. Historical ship positions are only logged for a total of 7 turns. If you have configured INFORMER to display ship paths, these paths will therefore become shorter as you step backwards through the history.
When you are viewing a historical turn you can inspect old bang information (see below) and see how mine field sizes have changed. You can also view ship or planet. and planet information. The gross weight of a viewed ship will be correct for the turn in question but the cargo display is for the current turn. Historical information for a planet will display current information for minerals.
Correct historical information is displayed for ownership, population, temperature, tax and defence variables. Of course, if ownership is constantly changing you will not have access to some of the other data.
This function provides you with a list of all ships known to INFORMER,sorted by race and ID. The two boxes are similar in appearance to the "left mouse click" boxes, with one addition: a "*" is used in the left-hand box to indicate that the precise location of the ship is known. Moving the cursor to a ship entry with a "*" flag and pressing [Enter] will move the mouse pointer to the ship's position.
Due the ship information constraints explained above for the "left mouse click" lists, it is possible that you will notice ships in the list that you know have been destroyed. You can delete entries in the list using the delete key. Ships without a "*" flag will not have their records re-created when you next re-enter INFORMER.
Allows you to search for a planet, either by planet ID, name, or partial string. The first method will move your mouse pointer directly to the planet, as will the second and third if the match is unique. If there is more than one match, a pop-up box will display the various possibilities and you can select the one you want from the list.
Similar to the [S] search, [F] allows you to locate ships.
Brings up a menu that allows you to set some drawing options, perform various utilities, etc:
Edit slot header
This slot header screen is a duplicate of the one that you completed when you first configured this particular game. You can change any of the game parameters, apart from your race.
All these options are either yes or no, on or off.
Own flight paths:
Draw flight paths of own ships.
Allied flight paths:
Draw flight paths of allied ships.
Enemy flight paths:
Draw flight paths of enemy ships.
(The number of turns of path that will be displayed is determined by the "turns of history" slot header).
Display backwards extrapolation of the courses of enemy ships.
Indicate planetary defence strengths with rings.
Draw waypoints (projected ship courses).
Show HYP ships:
Highlight position of hyperjump ships with a bright yellow cross.
Append or overwrite reports (mineral, etc).
Track Ion Storms, a feature added in HOST v3.20. Turning off this feature will reduce the memory requirements of INFORMER by a kb or two.
A list of all races in the game, apart from your own, will be presented. Each race can be toggled between "Enemy" and "Ally", and updated using [F10]. As soon as a race is indicated as being an ally, you can exit and re-enter INFORMER and the unpacked .RST of any ally will be processed in the same way as your own.
A single VGAP .RST can contain one password. This screen allows you to "remember" the passwords for your, and your allies', .RST files. INFORMER can "only" be configured for nine passwords in any one game. If a password is entered correctly on this screen, it will not be necessary to enter the password yourself when reading a .RST in INFORMER.
Edit auto build
The auto build utility can take away a lot of the drudgery of constructing factories, mines, and defence posts for the registered player. This screen allows you to define the rules that will govern construction.
The letters "F", "M", and "D" (upper case only) are used to define the preference for the order of construction. If you leave out any of the letters, that type of facility will not be built. As an example, FD will auto build factories followed by defence posts and will not build any mines. If this field is left blank then nothing will be constructed.
The (auto built) maximum number of mines wanted on a planet.
The (auto built) maximum number of factories wanted on a planet.
The (auto built) maximum number of defence posts wanted on a planet.
If the planet contains more unmined tonnage of any one of the four mineral types then the auto build utility will build the number of mines specified above. If the mineral tonnage does not meet this requirement then no mines will be auto built.
Skip me FC:
No action will be taken for any planet that has this friendly code.
See seperate section below.
Optimise fuel usage
Ships that finish their turns inside the warpwell of a planet will "fall" into the well and move into orbit around the planet. This feature can be used to good effect to save fuel, by flying "short" of the destination planet and letting the warpwell do the rest. It can be very fiddly to tweek waypoints to maximize the fuel savings whilst not overdoing things and leaving the occasional ship sitting just outside a warpwell by accident.
This function will perform the tweeking for you, adjusting the waypoints of all ships whose existing waypoints are at a planet and which will arrive in one turn. In tests in well developed games, players have saved as much as 140 kt of fuel in one turn. Over several turns, these kind of savings can make or break an invasion.
Remember that, whilst this feature is not registered, the [Alt-O] command that commits the adustments as actual orders is registered.
A utility to locate resources that are located within a given distance of the mouse pointer. [Q] calls up a screen where you enter the search radius and the minimum quantities of fuel, minerals, etc, that you wish to locate. A search range of "0" is counted as infinite, and will include the whole universe in the search. A "resource" field with a value of 0 will not be included in the search. [F10] initiates the search and returns you to the main screen, where those planets that meet the search criteria will have a flashing ring around them.
The maximum search radius is 600ly. The search function works with an OR operator: if your search fields specify 500 clans & 500 supplies then INFORMER will locate those planets that have a minimum of 500 clans OR 500 supplies. If you need to use an AND-type search in order to be more specific then you can use the Reports function, accessible through the [M] menu.
Clears flashing rings from around planets.
INFORMER allows you to define up to 8 lines that will be permanently drawn on the map (until deleted). The prime purpose of these lines is to represent boundaries, the borders between the space controlled by different races. A single boundary is limited in length to the width and height of the screen...the map will not scroll whilst a boundary is being defined.
There are several steps to drawing a boundary:
1) After pressing [Alt-B] enter the boundary number you will be drawing.
2) Move the mouse cursor to the boundary start point and click.
3) Move the mouse cursor to the boundary end point and click.
4) Press [F10] to save the boundary.
5) Press [Alt-D] at any of stages 2-4 to delete the boundary.
6) Press [Esc] at any of stages 3-4 to return to the previous stage.
It is often to crucial to be able to predict how large a minefield will be before it is laid. If the enemy Firecloud Cruiser lays a minefield this turn will the minefield overlap your busiest shipping route? Can your Deth Specula plug the gap between two existing minefields with a new minefield...and do it in one go?
[Alt-M] calls up a graphical minefield calculator in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
Field no. : 1
Torp slot : 4
Torpedoes : 30
Move mouse : stopped
This "field #1" is an imaginary minefield centred around your existing mouse position and is drawn in bright yellow. By entering different minefield ID numbers you can draw up to 9 of these yellow circles. Each minefield can be calculated based on whatever torpedo slot number or number of torpedoes you need. Remember that torpedo slot number is not the same as tech level.
The position of each circle is locked whilst "Move mouse" says "stopped". To change the position of any minefield, use the [Up] or [Down] arrow keys until the the "Move mouse" line says "moving". The minefield can then be positioned on the screen using the mouse. Use the [Up] or [Down] key to lock the position again.
Whilst the minefield calculator is active the screen itself will not scroll.
It is possible to view the effect of more than one ship laying "multi-tech" mines in the same field by an iterative calculation.
50 x Mark 5 torpedoes (slot 7)
50 x Mark 8 torpedoes (slot 10)
1) Draw field #1 for 50 x slot 7 torpedoes.
2) Draw field #2 for slot 10 torpedoes. It does not matter how many.
3) Move field #2 to share same center point as field #1.
4) Adjust field #2 torpedoes figure until two fields are the same size. When the fields precisely overlap the minefield circles "disappear". In this example, 24 x slot 10 torpedoes will be required.
5) The effect of both ships is equivalent to 50 + 24 = 74 x slot 10 torpedoes.
6) You can now draw a field for 74 x slot 10 torpedoes and see the cumulative effect of both ships laying mines.
If there is a planet name on the first row (within 70 ly of the mouse pointer) then [Alt-P] presents you with a screen that allows you to define/change the race of the owner of the planet, as well as mark whether the planet has a starbase.
Watching enemy shipping movements can allow you to guess ownership of planets. A VCR for a planet attack can tell you that an enemy planet has a starbase. This "derived" information can then be recorded using [Alt-P].
Used to read your VGAP messages. The [Up] and [Down] arrow keys will move you to the next/previous message. The [PgUp] and [PgDn] keys will jump ten messages at a time.
A race such as the Evil Empire can receive several hundred messages in one turn, so even using the [PgUp]/[PgDn] keys may become tiresome. You can therefore define filters for different message types (ie Dark Sense) in INF.DEF (see INFDEF.DOC). Whilst viewing messages, press [F] to enable/disable the filter(s). Filtered messages are still present, and are used by INFORMER...you just cannot see them. Pressing [Down] to view the next message may skip dozens of filtered messages.
If you are registered, INFORMER stores the current message number in memory, enabling you to "keep your place" if you wish to exit the message reader, view something and then return to the reader.
The [G] key is a special way of exiting the message reader, and (if there is a definition for the message in INF.DEF) will take you to the context of the message being read. This might be the site of a large meteor strike, the XY co-ordinates of a ship explosion, etc.
This function allows you to create a message to another player or players. A list of all other races in the game will appear alongside a yes/no toggle option, allowing you to define exactly who you will send the message to.
The cursor in the message editor will not wrap to the next line at the end of a line: it is necessary to press [Enter]. The [Ins] key will act to toggle between Insert and Overwrite modes.
Allow you to read (but not change) messages that you have created using either the [Alt-W] feature or the [M] feature in PLANETS itself. If you have created a message to multiple races then you will read a duplicate message for each of the races.
Native lifeform search function. When used from the main map screen, [Alt-N] pops up a picklist of all the native race types. Select one of the races and press [Enter] and a second picklist will appear, listing all of your planets that are populated by this particular native lifeform. Pressing [Enter] on one of the planet names will move the mouse pointer to that planet, allowing you to use the right-mouse click or [F4] functions.
If you re-use the [Alt-N] function immediately, INFORMER will short-cut to the planet list for the last race viewed. The last planet you viewed will be highlighted, making it easier to sequentially view all planets inhabited by a particular native lifeform.
Any other INFORMER function that calls a list , such as [U], will cancel this shortcut.
[R] displays the Note text of the closest Note (marked with a red X) within 70 ly of the mouse pointer.
The following functions are only available for ship Notes:
* [X] allows you to define up to eight waypoints, each of which will be visited in turn by the ship. It is also possible to define a set of waypoints as being part of a cyclic route (i.e., a freighter "milk-run") and the ship will continue on this route indefinitely, until the note is altered/deleted or the ship runs out of fuel. A cyclic route can be as simple as a direct route between two planets.
Waypoints are defined in the same way as from the ship list. A red course line is displayed, and the waypoint is committed using [Alt-X]. The first waypoint originates from the current ship position and is drawn in grey. All suceeding waypoints will originate from the XY position of the previous waypoint and are drawn in yellow.
On selecting the [X] function, you will be asked if:
a) You wish to define normal waypoint(s). As you add each waypoint you will be asked whether you wish to save the route or add another waypoint.
b) You are at the start of a cyclic route. As you add each waypoint you will be asked whether you wish to save the route or add another waypoint. The last waypoint should not be at the ship's current position: INFORMER will "close" the cycle for you.
c) You wish to move to the startpoint of a cyclic route.
After defining waypoint 1 the choices will be as in b) above. When saving, INFORMER will "close" the cycle to waypoint 1 instead of to the ship's current position.
INFORMER monitors Note waypoints and places comments after line 5 of the Note text when certain events occur. The comments are also removed, if appropriate. The following comments are used:
a) *** ARRIVED AT WAYPOINT ***
Can be used as a reminder to upload/download cargo.
b) *** OUT OF FUEL ***
This text will be displayed when the ship is out of fuel, or will not have sufficient fuel to reach its next waypoint. INFORMER will automatically put the ship on "hold" until fuel is loaded, at which time the ship will continue on its route normally.
c) *** END OF ROUTE ***
For obvious reasons, this text will not be displayed if the ship is on a cyclic route.
Note: INFORMER allows you to define one waypoint to get to the start of the cyclic route. It may be preferable to move to the start-point in more than one hop...you may wish to move indirectly in order to disguise your movements. In this kind of situation it is better to move the ship "manually" to the start-point of the cyclic route and then define the cyclic route in a later turn. A high priority ship Note can be used to remind you of what the ship is doing...and waypoints added to the Note at the appropriate time.
* Waypoints defined from a ship Note are not normally visible on the screen. [V] allows you to view any waypoints that you have already defined for the current ship Note.
There are two functions that can be performed whilst viewing any of the three Note types:
* Pressing [E] will allow you to edit the Note text and priority. The Note creation screen is popped up, loaded with the existing Note text. Setting a ship Note priority to 0 has special functionality if the Note has waypoints defined. These notes are be counted as high priority (and displayed when starting INFORMER) whenever there is a comment added by INFORMER to the Note text.
* Pressing [Del] will delete the Note.
If there is a planet name on the first row (within 70 ly of the mouse pointer) then [F4] calls up a tax calculator and forecaster for the planet.
When called up, this screen shows an 8 turn projection (starting at the next turn) based on the current status of the planet. The projection is displayed in two tables, the top one for colonists and the bottom one for natives. The second table will be blanked if there are no natives on the planet.
Colour is used in the tables to indicate happiness:
Blue = Calm/happy
Yellow = Unhappy
Red = Rioting/fighting
The colonist table has the following columns:
Turn: Future turn number.
Clans: Colonist population.
Mega: Colonist tax revenue.
Supply: Number of supply units produced on the planet from factories.
Defence: Maximum number of defence posts that the colonist population can support.
Change: Colonist happiness change, based on factors such as the total colonist population, the number of factories and mines on the planet, the colonist tax rate, and the planet temperature.
The native table has the following columns:
Turn: Future turn number
Clans: Native population
Mega: Native tax revenue
Excess Mega: The value of tax revenue "lost" by not having sufficient colonists to collect it.
Supply: Supply units produced on the planet by Bovinoids (if applicable).
Excess Supply: The number of supply units "lost" by not having sufficient colonists to milk all the moo-cows.
Change: Native happiness change, based on factors such as the total native population, the number of factories and mines on the planet, the colonist tax rate, and the government type.
The top two lines of the screen list those factors that you can adjust in order to affect the projections in the tables (i.e., tax rates, factories, mines, temperature).
Use the following keys to see the affect of changes:
 Raise colonist tax rate by 1%
 Lower colonist tax rate by 1%
 Raise native tax rate by 1%
 Lower native tax rate by 1%
[M] Build 1 mine.
[Ctrl-M] Remove 1 mine (minimum = current number of mines).
[F] Build 1 factory.
[Ctrl-F] Remove 1 factory (minimum = current number of mines).
[-] Lower temperature by 1ø per turn.
[+] increase temperature by 1ø per turn.
Registered users may use the [F10] key to commit the changed tax rates as actual orders. Apart from this, all the changes are hypothetical and are intended to allow for planning of such things as the movement of terraforming ships, the migration of populations, etc.
Whilst [F4] allows the player to adjust tax rates on individual planets, the [U] function is intended to provide the overview that helps guide the player to the problem planet in the first place. [U] calls up a table of all planets owned by the player, sorted by happiness:
Chort rioting clans 9 natives 5
Morning Star calm clans 3 natives -4 ÀÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄ
1) Colour is used in the tables to indicate happiness:
Blue = Calm/happy
Yellow = Unhappy
Red = Rioting/fighting
2) Clans = Colonists
3) Happiness change indicated by positive/negative integers.
4) Moving the cursor to a planet and pressing [Enter] will take you directly to the tax calculator for the planet.
5) In the above example, the planet Chort is rioting but becoming more happy each turn. If left alone the population will stop rioting. The planet Morning Star is calm but becoming less happy. If left alone it will start to riot sooner or later.
If you re-use the [U] function immediately, the last planet you viewed will be highlighted, making it easier to sequentially view all planets that you own.
As with the [Alt-N] function,
A registered function that commits all your orders to file. This includes the auto-building of mines/factories/defence posts, the adjustment of tax rates, and the changing of waypoints and ship missions. Note that the "optimise fuel usage" function does change waypoints.
INFORMER detects whether there are "uncommitted" orders when you exit the program. You will then be asked if you wish to:
* Save and exit (commit all orders)
* Exit without saving
* Abort exit and return to INFORMER
When [Alt-O] is used, INFORMER will auto-build dependent on the resources available on the planet, and will not use resources that are loaded on ships in orbit. So, if you have a planet with:
100 units Stores on the surface
0 Megacredits on the surface
1000 Megacredits in orbit
it is possible to auto-build 100 Defence Posts...as long as you use PLANETS to transport the Megacredits to the planet surface BEFORE issuing the [Alt-O] command. If you neglect to do this, INFORMER will convert most of the stores on the planet to Megacredits and you will end up with only 9 Defence Posts, with a single Stores unit left over.
A function to allow you to export ship and planet data from INFORMER directly to an AFSIM save slot. The export function is tied to the current mouse position and will allow you to export details for any ships within a distance that you will define.
When [Alt-E] is used, INFORMER will warn you if there are no available slots. Slots can be made available using the AFSIM "Delete saved battle" function. When one or more slots are available, INFORMER will ask you which slot you wish to export to. Select a slot and press [Enter].
You will next be asked which races you wish to include in the export. Selection is via yes/no toggle. The default is "yes" for you own race and "no" for all other races.
The third step in the export is to configure the following:
Include planet (yes/no)
Selecting "yes" will include one planet in the export. This field will only appear if there is a planet with 70 ly of the mouse pointer. All available information will be exported. If the planet belongs to you or an ally, then the export will include details on a defence, starbase (if present), etc. If the planet belongs to an unknown enemy then the export will record nothing more than the presence of the planet. All other details will have to be guessed at when running the battle in AFSIM.
Include range (Integer)
The use of AFSIM lies in planning for the future. The "Include range" allows you to export fleets that will only meet in one or more turns time. The range is the distance in light years from the current position of the mouse pointer that will be used to define a filter for the ships that it will be possible to include in the export. The field has a default value of 85 ly, the maximum distance a (normal) Warp 9 ship can travel in one turn if it is falling into a planetary warp well at the end of the turn.
The name that will be given to the battle when saved in an AFSIM slot.
The final step in the process is to select individual ships for export. You will be presented with a list of all known ships that belong to the selected races, and which are within the "include range". The list will also include ships whose current positions are unknown, but which have been sighted with the "include range" in the last 2 turns. Ships are selected by highlighting and pressing [Enter], whilst [F10] processes the export.
Your own ships will have accurate torpedo stocks. The export will provide all enemy ships with maximum torpedo manifests - even if you have just watched a VCR that tells you that there are no torpedoes on a particular ship. Similarly, the export will not include damage data for enemy ships. Remember that the PLANETS data files do not always include all the information that you might know.
Enemy ships with unknown armament will be given the highest tech level. Engine tech will be set to 9, or to the highest observed warp speed for each ship. An enemy may deliberatly fly their warp 9 ships at warp 6 in order to fool you. In a game that is using shield bonuses an incorrect assumption about engine tech level can make all the difference between total victory ignominious defeat.
This will display a score table, unless scores have been "killed" by a HOST utility. The table does not indicate points but is otherwise almost identical to that given in PLANETS. However, the table does indicate how individual figures have changed from the previous turn, using a +/- integer in brackets. As an example, a race that has gained two planets might show the figure 38 (+2).
Accessed from [M] Menu (described above). This feature is similar to the [Q] function, allowing you to search for planets that meet given resource criteria and which lie within a user-defined distance of each one of your starbases. Depending on the report selected, minerals are searched for using OR & AND logic. The results of searchs are output to screen in the form of a table for each starbase, and a file (INFORM.REP) that duplicates these tables. After a report has been generated, planets that meet the search criteria will flash until [C] is pressed.
The stages in report generation are as follows:
Select report type:
Mine field report
Locates minefields that have changed by more than the expected margin.
Fuel locate report (mined)
Similar to the [Q] query.
Fuel locate report (in ground)
This search cannot be done using the [Q] report.
Mineral locate report (mined. 1 meets required)
This report is also similar to the [Q] report, performing an OR search to locate any planet where one or more minerals exceed the requirements.
Mineral locate report (mined, all meet required)
An AND report, allowing you to find a planet that has (say) 400 kt of Tritanium AND 300 kt of Molybdenum.
Mineral locate report (in ground, 1 meets required)
This search cannot be done using the [Q] report.
Mineral locate report (in ground, all meet required)
An AND report.
Searches for Megacredits OR supplies.
When you select the desired report-type, you will be asked to define a search range (distance from any starbase) and the minimum amounts of the the resources being searched for. As no starbase is included in its own report, a distance of 0 ly will not produce a search result.
Pressing [F10] will then call up the first of the individual starbase reports. Pressing [Esc] will return you to the map. Any other keypress takes you to the next starbase report.
Each report contains the starbase name and a list of planets that meet the search requirements, with resource amounts. The distance from the starbase to each planet is given, as well as the heading in octants (SE, NWW, etc).
Program Author: Sean Martens
Program Docs: Mark Symons
WHERE TO GET THE LATEST VERSION
You can find out if a new version of AFSIM or INFORMER has been uploaded by sending an email query as follows:
You can then retrieve a file using the following email message (using AFSIM v1.4 as an example):
ftp.onwe.co.za pub/usr/martens is another FTP site that I use.
I also upload new version to the following South African BBS's:
AECI BBS +27 11 608-1516 ($18/annum subscription)
Fast! BBS +27 11 706-1749 (Free download).
AECI BBS gets all Beta versions of my software...because that is where the Beta testers hang out.
A final word...
I hope you enjoy using this utility and find it a help in planning and executing your conquest of the galaxy. I welcome any and all feedback, suggestions, and bug reports.