WordPress theme failure

Not quite sure how, but our Twenty-thirteen theme for WordPress died at some point.   And our domain registrar forwards disappeared.  When Robert emailed me saying the site looked down, it took me some time to figure out what happened, but we are back up.  We are now on the Twenty-Seventeen theme so things may look a bit different, but we are back up…

My Dream List for ST

I’m just back from a vacation where I played an hour or so of Solar Trader every night (waiting for Jesse to finish off his diddlings). The thing is, every time I play, I think of new things I’d like to add. For instance…

1) Huge system with Moons: If I had it all over to do, I’d have spaced out the planets a bit more and put moons in. Jesse and I have spoken about this – it would be so cool to have missions to lunar bases. After all, if you can transport people to far away asteroid camps, the moon would just be a hop. But no, its a little late for that. Everything (gas, air use, power use) would have to be changed, along with some ancient and dusty original coding.

2) More encounters: Like 200+ encounters isn’t enough? I’d love to add new ones. Every time I see something on TV, or read a book, I think – there’s another encounter. Today, I thought about having a dream sequence that might happen while you are in the auto sleep bunk, where you fight your personal demons. It might be a fun sidebar.

3) New misssions: I’d like to add two new missions to the NQA (no questions asked) mission. One would be a photo recon of a deep-space drydock, where as soon as you go by, several picket ships go active and chase you. Another would be getting tossed into the game show “Hares and Hounds” where you have to fly a pod to a distant planet but several bounty hunters are after you. Both of these are doable – I just have to think it out.

4) Backstory: Jesse and I talked a lot about this one – it could be that you could pick these as helpful advantages (like starting with more cash and stuff). Backstories could help you in all sorts of ways. The neatest had it’s plusses and negatives – the haunted ship. Soon as you land, every rat and cat runs out and never comes back. Of course, if a haunting occurs, you take a morale hit and your passengers might go mad.

5) Patch & Go sales desk – like Pixies and the Souk and Droxias, you need a place where you can buy ship stuff. Since P&G has an empty button slot, this would be an easy thing to do. Now, before starting on one of those long long flights, you could gear up. Fun!

I don’t know how many of these I’ll ever add. Number 5 for sure – I could do that in a couple of minutes. The special missions, perhaps. Since OreLuggers is such a useful mission, it would be nice to get some variations in there. The others? I don’t know right now. I guess I need Jesse to wrap up so we can put this out to Beta.

Will it ever be finished? Anyone’s guess at this point…

Politics in Space

Funny thought came up today. A libertarian and a socialist write a game about a future. What sort of a place is it?

Jesse and I have been friends for decades, which is amazing when you think that we are polar opposites on every cultural or political issue. And what’s astounding is that, in thousands of weekly phone calls, we’ve never once had a nasty political fight. His points are always insightful and thoughtful, whereas mine are blustery rhetoric, but still.

So there came a time in the development of Solar Trader when planets and cities and such had to be added. We already knew what sort of universe this solar system of ours would be in 2075 (a bleak one, with immigrants desperately streaming off Earth,  heavy-handed rock bosses on Mercury, a reactionary government in Saturn’s drumstation, and the entire planet of Pluto a prison). Yes, it wasn’t a happy place.

So what would be a future a libertarian and socialist would agree on?

With a nod to Jesse, it would be a Chinese future, with their ruthless command economy dominating all. As we see now, China still pays lip-service to the ideals of communism, but really its all about the tightly-controlled and oppressed society, with a comfortable upper tier and a huge peon class. Their spaceport, a bleak thrown-together metropolis, is now falling apart, indicative of the planet it exists with.

And for me, there is its government-controlled mega corporation, humorously named “MaoCorp” (how could Chairman Mao ever support a corporation, anyway?). MaoCorp is the massive transport company the player (a FreeTrader) finds himself up against. MaoCorp has mob ties. MaoCorp crews hassle the player at every turn. In space, MaoCorp freighters might use their “defensive” weapons against the player if he gets too close (supposedly, they have an “exemption” for such weapons, which FreeTraders NEVER get). MaoCorp directors even send snipers after the player if he gets too successful.

So that’s the sort of universe that has slowly developed by two people with opposing political thoughts about what is “good” and “evil”.

I think the funniest place this shows up is, oddly, ship transponders. Each ship has a transponder, supposedly originally assigned by the Interplanetary Police (pretty much all that’s left of the UN, maybe). The player has a code assigned to him, as do all TreeTraders (an ISO number). Illegals tend to short theirs out. Dead ships automatically switch over to a binary SOS. Bases transmit their asteroid name (using long-standing designations recognized today).

But when Jesse first started working on mook navigation, he had all empty ship slots filled with MaoCorp ships, flying from a planet to a planet. The strange thing was, while most ships you could only see an AU or so away, you could see these guys all the way across the solar system. Why was that?

To fit this into the storyline of a government-backed corporation that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about UN mandates, MaoCorp has rerigged its transponders to “bellow” their codes so they can be tracked from HQ back on earth (perverting their intended use). Worse, they have their OWN codes, essentially an “MC”, followed by the origin planet, the destination planet, and the current sequential run. So, even though you are orbiting Mercury, you’ll pick up the amplified transponder for MC742, the second ship of this series running from Uranus to Mars, way far away. Just another reminding of how corporations ignore regulations when it suits them.

So that’s the system you are in, planets under near-feudalistic rule, inept police agencies bickering and fumbling, the belt swarming with pirates, as well as student riots, food riots, and immigrants lining up around the block at the Chinese Embassy, hopeful that anywhere else must be better than this.

Yeah, it’s a great place to fly around, the Solar Trader universe.

(The first move for a liberal like me is to buy a handgun. What’s that say?) 🙂

Slow but steady gets you to Mars (more development updates on Solar Trader)

And everywhere else.  I didn’t hit my goal of a playable beta by end of year, but work continues.  Robert has been playtesting and accumulating a list of bugs to fix.  Meanwhile, I’m getting space encounters to work.

Basics are in.  MaoCorp freighters appear frequently flying on their own freight missions.  Once in a while, they’ll pop out near you.  Occasionally even a free trader will fly by too.  Orbital guard, assassins all are included and can show up.   And as of the last weekend, Rescue tugs can now be called out.  Now if you are in deep space and deep other stuff, you can call for help!!!  Still needs some work, but it’s getting closer.

Finally, I found and fixed some navigation errors, so all these non-player ships fly more intelligently.

With all the bugs to be fixed, I’m not sure when we’ll be ready with a playable Beta to distribute, but I hope to have my stuff done enough to hand back to Robert by the end of January at the latest.

What can happen to you in Solar Trader?

Jesse is currently finishing up the NPC ship coding, and I’m just playtesting (another way of saying ‘screwing around playing a fun game’). Oh, I’m logging bugs (and the Beta version will have its share) but its largely playable.

So last night, I’m on the pad on Uranus. Distance-wise, it’s a ways out from Earth, very far. But I’ve made it running a special FedUp haul. Now I’ve got a cargo pod fulla fish (don’t you know we discovered aquatic life on Uranus? Don’t you know it’s delicious?). But I’m depressed, really depressed by what I’ve been through lately. I’m not looking forward to that long sunward lug to Earth and now Uranus Control (a sphincter, one might joke) is denying me liftoff, saying I’ll have to wait a day.

Hell with that. I’ve got drugs in my possession.

Yes, so here I am, playing the role of a respectable pilot, shooting up in the control seat, bringing my morale back all rosy, happy, and blinky-eyed. Hoo boy.

“Look, man, if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to drive while I’m stoned. It’s like you know your perspective’s fucked so you just let your hands work the controls as if you were straight.” (points to those who get the reference)

So there’s the green light – lights on! Hardburn  on! Final clearance check! Go! My ship lofts high into the inky Uranus sky, drives akimble. And then the onboard computer crashes. All systems go down.

Frantically I try to get the thrusters (the minimum I need) online but fail. Now the ship is falling and at the very last second, the drives (not hardburn) come on. Uranus doesn’t have much atmosphere so airbraking won’t work. I go for the minimal approach under limited burn and pull it off.

And now I’m sitting somewhere on the pad, my ship steaming, everything still offline except my basic burners.

And I get a fine for not calling space traffic control and clearing in (my radio was down, too).

Rebooting a ship is a time consuming effort. It took a day to get the hardburn running. It took another to get radio. And every day, I got another fine. Go ahead and penalize away – I’m never coming back to Uranus – I’ve got my load and I’m ready to go. For some reason, I call for clearance – I must have owed them four or five cash cards for my various violations. But being a tidy little captain (the drugs have long since worn off) I call, I clear, and I lift.

I would go on to die trying to get into Earth orbit, a combination of a ship’s fire, a bad solar flare and some sloppy navigation. Oh well. Still, that was an adventure the spacers across the various shipping lanes still talk about.

Solar Trader Development Update

I finally convinced Robert to stop coding and give me control.  He’s finished the mini-games (bomb wire-cut game and gambling).  And added a host of bar room encounters. And then he had to flesh out (snicker) the brothels, adding the parlor options and all the fun and games there.  But wait, that wasn’t enough, he had to shake the screen during a burn.
So now it’s my turn.  I just finished coding the mission start for space encounters.   So now, if an event triggers for an encounter with another Free Trader, the Orbital Guard, or any other ship (or space encounter).  The best part is that with the new encounter approach, adding new space encounters is easy.  Really easy.  Adding a comet or wreck or asteroid cluster is just adding some entries in the table.
Next, will be testing my code for starting encounters, then more testing of my older navigation code (so other ships can fly somewhat intelligently towards their targets), and then adding more code for mission actions – So that in addition to freighters delivering cargo (already coded / tested) other missions like escort, attack, rescue can be run…