*** *** *** The Story *** *** ***
This blog was more about revealing the story that is wrapped around all of the games of the PDU than it was about the games themselves. I am revealing parts of the overall PDU story a little bit disconnected from each other to not reveal too much of the overall story. Most of what I am revealing in this presentation is actually not even from the games, it is mostly timeline and background for the individual games... the "spine" of the overall story of the universe. The details of the stories of the individual games are like the "ribs" of that "spine", and there is actually very little of that in this blog. I thought I'd skip ahead to The Trade Wars and Mission for a couple small interesting things from the first half of the PDU story to hopefully inspire more of you to actually download it and read it. These are also from the games, part of those more detailed "ribs" of the story that so little of any of this actually is. I think it's a pretty interesting sci-fi story, and this entire presentation is focused mostly on the story. So this is all mostly really just a sci-fi story to read, if you like those, and if you like it there is more than a book here. It's about 500 pages all together. It's intentionally a little disconnected, as I said, like a wide ranging preview. I like the story a lot these days, after it has spent so long evolving into what it has become after literally half-a-lifetime of working on it as a hobby. For most of that time I didn't like the story, and would just shrug and say "it's not like us AH/ADB guys were ever known as great story tellers"... so it's not like I think of myself as a real writer. It's just evolved into something that at least I now think is pretty good. Hopefully other people will like it too.
I make games, I'm only a story writer because I need to be for the games. But I think I've come up with something pretty cool over 20 years of evolving it, better than I should have been able to because of the long process of evolution through the games, and putting it together around the songs, that has created it as much as I have. So even if you aren't interested in the games I'd be interested in hearing about what people think about the story. I've been kind of interested in hearing people's opinions on that for quite a while now... from someone who has actually taken enough interest in it to have actually read it all, that is, if anyone even has. The unique way it is written for games, meant to be experienced over and over, means that it really is one of those stories that is better the second time around. Even in this "scattered preview" that is presented in this blog I have made it complete enough for there to be countless things that anyone who actually got into the story would start to figure out. For example there is a lot more that can be discerned about Cindy McAllen, Andrea Takahashi, Kavik Kang, Lord Vaith, Zeus, and Hades from what is here than you could possibly realize by simply reading it once like a book. In fact, in Cindy's case it is possible to realize who she really is from what is here, which is something I want the "fan boys" to be able to work out almost from the beginning of the story. I understand that it is a lot to take in and that not many people are likely to take an interest in it in this form. But if anyone out there actually has read it, I'd love to hear what you think of it. I thought, at the very least, I would finally get to hear what people thought of the story.
So here are a couple examples of story/lore taken out of actual games that might hopefully interest some people to look at more of the story, and then a little more about the actual games and how I personally rank my own PDU games among themselves and why.
*** *** MeeSo explain Gravity and the Places (Mission) *** ***
Here is some actual dialogue from Mission... so that you can actually meet Rube! This is something that would happen very shortly before the final quest of Mission (Cygnus X1/Hemispheres). After this there is something I posted in the forums earlier but I thought I would add here as well, a fake futuristic sport I created for the PDU called "Triangulation" or "Triple Threat Basketball". It's meant to be a real, playable sport... although I would imagine the rules would evolve a lot by the end of the first game anyone actually tried to play in real life.
MeeSo is Rube. A primitive and broken Rube (for now... he's working on it...). In the game universe MeeSo is a "Tressel". He is not the only one that is encountered over the course of the PDU but he is the most advanced, or maybe "least broken" would be more accurate, Tressel that is ever encountered. MeeSo is a very futuristic looking metallic sphere with a seam around his center. He looks a lot like "a really shiny perfect and pristine good-guy Borg Sphere", and he hovers in mid-air. MeeSo can also teleport himself, as far as can be discerned... any distance that he wants. The top and bottom half can seperate at the seam, and you can see his Active/Passive Map ("The Matrix") and the insides of the top and bottom hemispheres when it does, but this doesn't happen very often. MeeSo also, of course, has a Top Spinning Wheel of Time above him that is not connected too him in any way, but stays generally where it is (there is a little bit of drift/play when he moves, and it is one thing that is used to convey emotion). "Laser beams of light" shine down into the Sphere from the Impulses on the Wheel, more of them depending on how "active" MeeSo is, and there can be up to... infinity of them. MeeSo has a "Tank Tread" instead of a Bottom Spinning Wheel of Time... and he doesn't like to talk about his tread, to say the least. The "Tank Tread" is the primitive Territories version of Rube (Rube II) that is the basis of most of the games of the PDU. The Wheel and the Tread spin, wobble, whirl, etc, to convey emotion, as do the Star Trek-like always blinking lights on the outside surface of the sphere. In addition to not liking to talk about his Tread, MeeSo is also greatly offended by being called a "robot, android, cybernetic life form"... any of these types of terms both offend and annoy him, and none of them are accurate. MeeSo insists on being called MeeSo or, if you must define him, "an artificial universe". But he prefers just being called MeeSo, as long as you don't... abuse it, let's say. MeeSo is very sensitive about his name being used... badly.
MeeSo's main reason for existing as a character in the PDU is that MeeSo explains the science of the PDU. That's the main reason that MeeSo exists, to explain the pseudo-science of this universe. The "MTV music videos" of these games are essentially silent movies, and I always assume a minimal amount of voice acting in any non-music cinematic scenes for budget/production reasons. More would be great, especially in the three adventure games, but I always assume that there will be very little voice acting and that the story will be conveyed almost entirely through text. In the three games where MeeSo appears as a character, a large amount of whatever "voice acting currency" was available would be spent on MeeSo. If there won't be much talking, MeeSo will be the one doing most of the talking in the games that he... it... is in. MeeSo's voice would be very important and I've never been able to decide what it is. But until that works itself out I always hear MeeSo as one of my Italian relatives from New England... Joe Pesci, basically.
Oh. I almost forgot. MeeSo has a natural tendency to speak in the third person, being an artificial universe and all that. But the humans laugh at him whenever he does, so by this point he has learned to avoid doing that.
Rocinante encounters some type of micro-singularity that is emitting a powerful repelling force. The bridge crew is very confused by this, but MeeSo is excited and honored to see...
MeeSo: "The Force!!! It's Gravity... from another Place! This reminds me of that Place I went to when Mee... when I was just an Orb!"
Captain Hiro Tanaka: "MeeSo, it's not Gravity... It's the opposite of that. It is a force pushing away from a singularity."
MeeSo: "That is not the Force! The Force is special!!! That's not special, that's just Gravity. It's here, in this Place... and there's nothing special about that. The Force is what is creating the Gravity!"
Tanaka: "I'm pretty sure that's the wrong word, too, Meeso..."
MeeSo: "No... The Force is the Force and Gravity is Gravity. They can seem to be the same thing sometimes, but they are separate. They are two things, not one thing like you think you see and feel... but can't hear. Like Mee... I tried to explain before, but it upset Sam so much that you stopped me, you are in the wrong Place to understand Gravity."
Commander Samantha "Spirit Angel" Byrne (this is actually Cindy "Fallen Angel" McAllen in her first re-appearance as the Harlequin character of the PDU after having been absent from The Trade Wars), First Watch Helm:
MeeSo: "The Force is not in this Place... so it's special! Anything that is not in this Place is special... in this Place anyway, because it shouldn't be here. That's what makes it special! The Force is what creates Gravity, without the Force... there wouldn't be any Gravity. The Force is Gravity, and Gravity is the Force."
Tanaka: "So how is this repelling for... gravity, that we are seeing here... how is this gravity, MeeSo?"
MeeSo: "Well, now this is a special case, you see. This thing shouldn't be here. It is in the wrong Place. And... without getting into a lot of details that you wouldn't understand anyway... the Gravity is working backwards because the Force of that thing is in the wrong Place. It's here, and it shouldn't be. And other than that, Mee... I think you are in the wrong Place to understand anything more than that."
Tanaka: "...and by 'thing', of course, you mean the singularity?"
MeeSo: "By your terminology, yes. But you are in the wrong Place to understand that thing, so your terminology doesn't help much. Does it? That 'thing' is life! It must be, it has both Gravity and the Force... therefore it is alive!"
Tanaka: "So you are saying that this anomaly is a living being, that is from another Place, that right now is here in this Place when it shouldn't be. And that this repelling... power, lets say... is "Reversed Gravity" because it is coming from something that is in the wrong Place... which is this Place! Do I actually have this one, MeeSo?"
MeeSo: "Very, very close... I'm so proud of you! Mee... I knew you were a smart guy... even said so. You almost got it, except that the Force is what you see and feel here in this Place. Not Gravity. Gravity is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us. It penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together. You can't see, feel, or hear Gravity no matter what Place you are in. The Force combined with Gravity is the repelling 'power' that you feel from that thing. Neither one alone has any... 'power'... as you put it."
Byrne: "But Meeso, our reactor creates a gravitational force as a byproduct... Does that mean that it is alive?"
MeeSo: "Of course not, your reactor creates artificial gravity. What you call gravity... not the Force! The Force is special. Gravity without the Force is just... gravity. That doesn't mean that your reactor is alive, that's just fake gravity. It doesn't have the Force like real Gravity does. Gravity and the Force are related to the Places. They create the Places, at every level. That's part of the problem here, when you are in the wrong Place to understand then your causes can't see their effects... and you really are in the wrong Place to understand Gravity and the Force."
Byrne: "But you just said that the Force was what we felt and saw in this Place, not Gravity... Please don't tell me that we are back to the Places again, MeeSo, my brain still hurts from the last time..."
MeeSo: "How many times do I have to say it... You are in the wrong Place to understand, so your causes can't see their effects. This is all about the Places again! 'Wheels within wheels'... that's how grandpa KnowSo used to put it, and he really knew the Places pretty good. The electron orbits the nucleus, therefore the nucleus is alive. The moon orbits the planet, therefore the planet is alive. The planet orbits the star, therefore the star is alive. The star orbits the galactic core, so the core is alive. The galactic core is orbiting a very big thing, and that very big thing which Mee... make that "I"... am not about to even begin to attempt to explain to you... it's alive! It must be... its got both Gravity and the Force! 'Wheels within wheels... in a spiral array!' That's how grandpa KnowSo always used to put it!"
Byrne: "It's just like the last time all over again! I'm sorry Hiro, I don't care how much it offends him...
Tanaka: "Thank you, MeeSo... It's a long way to Cygnus. I think we'd better get on with our survey... I certainly wouldn't want anything bad happening to Sam's brain by continuing this particular discussion again. Are we done here, Roger?"
Lt. Commander Roger Jennings, First Watch Operations: "Scanners were finished with it long before MeeSo was, sir..."
Tanaka: "Outstanding, Mr. Jennings. Samantha... Whenever you are ready, you may take us to our next target."
...and the favorite sport of the colonies!
*** *** *** Triangulation, AKA Triple Threat (The Trade Wars) *** *** ***
The Colonial Triangulation League (CTL) was founded in 2162. Triangulation is the third most popular sport in the Confederation of Colonies. The sport started out slowly, barely drawing enough fans to keep the league alive throughout the first several decades, but has risen to become one of the few major professional organized sports played in the CoC. Soccer and basketball are the only other team sports played in most nations, each colony of course being a nation, and are the only sports that are more popular than Triangulation. Horse racing is the next most popular sport, it had a strong resurgence in the late 2100's and has steadily risen in popularity ever since. Baseball is still quite popular in many nations, but only in a small percentage of them. Baseball is among the most popular sports at an amateur and recreational level, much more so than even soccer, and is the most played sport in general. Football remains, as always, the most popular sport in America, but is played professionally nowhere else and has only a cult following among people outside of the United States. Anicetus Colony has a unique fascination with American football, and is the only place outside of the US where there are large numbers of fans of the sport.
Triangulation surpassed baseball in popularity in the late 23[sup]rd[/sup] century and today nearly rivals basketball, the sport that had originally inspired it. It is known as "the sport of the colonies". Triangulation was invented on Centauri Colony and today it is overwhelmingly the most popular sport on the colonies. Triangulation enjoyed an explosion of popularity during the 2240's coinciding with a marketing campaign calling it "Triple Threat Basketball". This was soon shortened to "Triple Threat" and today the two names are used interchangeably in reference to the sport, with Triangulation still common only among a minority of people on Earth... which still translates to a majority overall. All twelve of the colonies have Triple Threat teams and no other sport has a professional team on every colony. Centauri has two teams who share the same arena, and the rivalry between the Pathfinders & Volcanoes is probably the most intense of any two teams in the CTL. There are 36 teams in the professional league and hundreds of Triple Threat courts throughout the CoC, most of them on Earth of course, where it is played for recreation. Only baseball and basketball are more popular as recreational team sports.
*** *** Colonial Triangulation League Official Rules, 2286 Season *** ***
There have been no rule changes since the 2285 season. 2285 World Champion Beijing Swarm have relocated to their new Triangle of Victory Arena outside of Tianjin, China. The new arena is less than 50 miles from the location of the old facility, the team will remain Beijing Swarm. Milan Wave has renovated Skylight Arena in Milan, Italy (EU), which now complies with all current league regulations. Sudan Storm has replaced Alpha Arena in Khartoum, Sudan (AU) at the same location between seasons, the new Alpha Arena is in compliance with all CTL regulations and seats an additional 2,200 spectators. Arcas Colony has repaired the minor light refraction flaw in their outer dome, caused by a meteorite impact prior to the last season, that many players had complained about. Alexiares Colony has replaced the entire inner module in which their CTL arena resided and therefore has a new facility, which will retain the name Apollo Arena. In accordance with CTL Committee decision of 2282 the Los Angeles Spikes have relocated to Milwaukee, WI (USA) and are now the Milwaukee Spikes. Los Angeles, California (USA) is now in compliance with the two team per city or colony limit imposed by the 2282 ruling. There are no other team or arena changes for the 2286 season.
*** General Rules ***
All of the rules of basketball apply except as modified by these rules. Note the concept of the "Enabling Rule" being turned around backwards by this first rule. This rule means that unless there is an Enabling Rule then all of the rules of basketball apply. So, for example, if it is a foul in basketball then it is a foul in Triangulation... but the free throw rules of Triangulation slightly alter the penalties depending on which Zone the foul happens in. Similarly, there is no mention of the Key Area in front of the basket, so it exists and all of those rules apply to Triangulation. There is no Enabling Rule that says it does not exist, so it does.
There are 3 five-man teams.
Beginning The Game - The game begins with a 3-way tip off at the center of the Center Zone between the three team Captains. There is also a 3-way tip off to begin the second half.
Winning The Game - Each team starts with 88 points. When a basket is scored, 2 points are subtracted from both of the opposing teams. When one team runs out of points the game is over and the team with the most points remaining wins. There is no game clock, there is a 4 minute halftime break when the first team reaches 44 points.
Tie Breaker - If the game ends in a tie, each team replaces the already defeated team's defensive player in their own Goal Zone with one of their own players. Then the two remaining teams continue to play until a winner is determined, ignoring the defeated team's Goal Zone for the remainder of the game.
*** *** Might need a circle Key Area at the Goal Zone BL, on one or both sides. Keep Captain away from the line seems necessary, maybe Runners in Center Zone as well?
*** Triangulation Court ***
The court is shaped like a triangle with the tips cut off. The end of each tip is 25ft long and each of the three sidelines are 120ft long. There is a basketball basket at the center point of each "tip end" of the triangle.
Free Throw Line - 15ft away from the basket. Penalties in the Goal Zone result in 2 free throw shots, penalties in the Center Zone result in 1 free throw shot.
3-Point Line - 25ft from the basket. 3 points subtracted from both opposing teams.
Goal Zone Boundary Line - There is 10ft between the 3-Point Line and the Goal Zone Boundary Line. This leaves a 50ft wide area in the middle of the three Goal Zones that comprise the Center Zone.
Out-of-Bounds - If the ball goes out-of-bounds in any Zone, there is a Jump Ball between Captains in the Center Zone between the other two teams. As always on a Jump Ball, players from any of the three teams may recover the ball from the tip. The Goal Zone Boundary Line is considered out-of-bounds for Center Zone play, but not in Goal Zone Play (you are allowed to pass from a Goal Zone into the Center Zone).
In-Bounding The Ball - After a basket the Captain of the team that was scored on brings the ball into the Center Zone. The Post players in the Goal Zone are not involved and cannot interfere. The Captain begins standing inside the Goal Zone at the Goal Zone Boundary Line.
Center Zone Timer - There is a 40-second possession clock in the Center Zone. A player must cross into a Basket Zone within 40 seconds. If the Center Zone Timer expires there is a Jump Ball at center court between the Captains of the other two teams. Any team may recover the ball from a tip, including the team that had just expired the clock.
24-Second Shot Clock - There is a 24-second clock in the Goal Zone that works identically to the shot clock in basketball. Technically the first rule already establishes this, but this is here for clarity.
Offside Timer - The Captain can only be in the Center Zone when his team possesses the ball. He has 8 seconds to return to his own Goal Zone when his team loses possession of the ball. If he fails to return in time the team with the ball gets a single free throw shot. Interfering with a Captain's ability to return to the Goal Zone is a penalty that gives the Captain a free throw shot.
*** Zones ***
The court is divided into 4 "Zones". Each team has a Goal Zone, and there is a Center Zone between them. The opposing team's Goal Zones are termed "Basket Zones".
Goal Zone - There is one player from each team in the Goal Zone. The Captain of each team is the player of that team that is assigned to this Zone. The Captain may leave this Zone to play in the Center, or even cross into either Basket Zone with the ball. The ball may be passed within the Goal Zone, or into the Center Zone from the Goal Zone.
The Post players in this zone, the two players other than the Captain, play either offense or defense depending on which team's Runner has entered the Goal Zone. Sometimes a Post player is defense, sometimes they are offense.
Center Zone - There are two players from each team in this area of the court. The player with the ball may enter either of the opposing Basket Zones. The ball may be passed within this Zone, but not out of it into a Goal/Basket Zone.
If the Captain does not come forward into the Center Zone his team will have a hard time getting past the defense being outnumbered 4-2. Of course, an offense is still outnumbered 4-3... but the center area is large and the defense is trying to defend two goals.
Basket Zone - The Goal Zones of the opposing teams are termed Basket Zones. The player with the ball may enter a Basket Zone. The Captain may enter a Basket Zone, but normally returns to his own Goal Zone to play defense while a Runner plays offense in the Basket Zone. The ball may be passed within the Basket Zone, or into the Center Zone from the Basket Zone.
The team that in-bounds the ball after a basket has been scored is the team that is most likely to score next, so which basket a team wants to score in can be a strategic decision later in a game. The team that in-bounds the ball can just give it to the other team in the Center Zone, of course, but that doesn't help them to win at all. They lose points no matter which of the other teams score.
*** Positions ***
There are three positions and five players on a Triangulation team. The Captain, two Runners, and two Posts. While different team strategies and philosophies would obviously result in different team make-up, this also lists the types of players envisioned as the Base Positions of Triangulation during its original design. An exceptionally talented C might play in the Goal Zone, or an exceptionally talented PG might play in the Center Zone... but it seems too me that the extreme ends of player types from traditional basketball have disadvantages in Triple Threat.
Captain (PF/SF) - The Captain can play in all three zones, according to the rules of each Zone. The Captain is the player who performs all Jump Ball tip attempts for his team. The Captain may only enter the Center Zone when his team has the ball, and must return to his own Goal Zone within 8 seconds if his team loses possession of the ball. If the Captain crosses into the Center Zone from his Goal Zone when his team does not have the ball it is a Center Zone penalty (1 free throw by the player currently holding the ball).
Note that any time the Captain is not in the Goal Zone, his team will be at a 2-to-1 disadvantage if an opposing team brings the ball into the Goal Zone... and the only defender is not even on his team!
Runners (SG/SF) - Two words... Alan Iverson. He would have made quite a Triple Threat Runner! Runners are not allowed to leave the Center Zone unless they have the ball. The ball holder may enter the Basket Zones. Runners are often quick and agile players, and good at scoring goals. The best athletes are usually found at this position. If a Runner crosses into a Goal Zone without the ball it is a Center Zone penalty. A single free throw by the player currently holding the ball, a Jump Ball between the other two teams if the offending player's team has the ball.
Players can't pass the ball into the Goal Zones from the Center Zone, so ultimately someone has to make a move on somebody. It's 3-4, but that still means not everyone can be double teamed... so getting past the defense is not particularly difficult for the right types of players. The ultimate goal of the defense in the Center Zone is, obviously, to steal the ball.
Posts (PF/SF) - The Posts are both the offense and defense of the team. They must be good at both scoring and playing defense. One of these players is in each Basket Zone, along with a Post player and Captain from each of the other teams. If a Post player crosses into the Center Zone at any time it is a Center Zone penalty. A single free throw by the player currently holding the ball, a Jump Ball between the other two teams if the offending player's team has the ball.
You are probably best off with all around Small Forward types here in general... but a star player always makes the difference, and exceptional players of every position except PG seem potentially feasible here depending on their talents.
Referee - There are 3 Referees. One stands at each of the 3 Goal Zone Boundary Lines and is focused on the Goal Zone and Captain of his assigned Goal Zone. All three Referees are equally responsible for Center Zone. Referees normally stay outside the edge of the court near their assigned Goal Zone Boundary Line and never enter the Goal Zone during play. They will commonly move forward a little into the Center Zone to follow the action, but generally stay in their area.
*** *** *** The Games *** *** ***
Since this blog has mostly been about the story, I thought I'd add a little bit about the games themselves. While the function of Rube is certainly alien too you, and most of these games really do function in a very unique way unlike any computer games that have ever existed before, a lot of the general nature, technology, and general atmosphere would all be eerily familiar too you. The Pirate Dawn Universe could be described as Star Fleet Universe II. You don't know this, but the silent hand of the Star Fleet Universe has been more influential on your industry than any single game other than Dungeons & Dragons. Star Fleet Battles is the Dungeons & Dragons of space games, and you already know it well without realizing it. On my Gamasutra blog there is a video of 30-year SFB veterans going through a very complicated cloaking procedure. If you pay attention, you will understand the whole thing... because what you know as a "cloaking device", "stealth", and "electronic warfare" within games ultimately came from us. Almost every space ship game your industry has ever made was either directly or indirectly influenced by the SFU, it is literally one of your great grandparents.
You already know the Star Fleet Universe very, very well even though you don't realize it. Master of Orion, Sword of the Stars, Faster Than Light... these are all very thinly disguised Star Fleet Universe games. Destroyers generally have 2 heavy weapons and 4-6 secondaries. Heavy Cruisers generally have 4 heavy weapons and 6-8 secondaries. This sounds "right" too you, doesn't it? Of course it does... because that's how we did it! Just like D&D with RPGs, the SFU is ultimately the only source material that you are working with. I don't need to tell you what a "Displacement Device" does, do I? You already know. About the only thing you don't know about it is that is is actually "Andromedan" technology from the SFU. You already know the PDU. It is Master of Orion, Sword of the Stars, and Faster Than Light. Only this time around, done by one of the most dedicated and serious simulation design experts that the SFB Staff has ever known... instead of just by one of our fans. It's one of the original designers of the original game doing this as computer games for the first time ever. Master of Orion and Faster Than Light were the equivalent of "fan productions" compared to the games of the Pirate Dawn Universe. The PDU comes straight from the original source, being done right as computer games for the first time. You already know us without realizing it. Too you we are Master of Orion and Faster Than Light, and the PDU is just that genre being done truly right for the first time within your industry.
A perfect example of the difference between the PDU, "SFU II" done by one of the actual original experts of this genre, would be what you know as the "Command Point" system from Master of Orion. Many, many of your games since MOO have also used this system. Why? The broken, misunderstood version of it that was used in MOO achieves nothing... haven't you ever wondered about what the reason for such a thing might be? Why it was really there? This is actually supposed to be the "Command Rating" system of the Star Fleet Universe, the people who made MOO completely missed the point of this system and you have been imitating it, even though the misguided MOO version achieves nothing, ever since. The PDU would use this correctly in a computer game for the first time. Command Ratings apply to fleet flagships, not the entire navy. Limiting the size of the entire navy achieves nothing... why have you been doing it for 30 years? You've never been able to make a good "space strategy war game" because there is no "strategy" to a single mega fleet of death stomping anything it encounters on the map... which is what the actual Command Rating system prevents from happening. In the PDU you would see this done right for the first time, resulting in actual "strategy" in a space strategy war game instead of a single massive fleet of all your ships stomping around the map, and no reason to try to defend anything other than with your own single massive fleet trying to intercept it. There is no game there, that doesn't even work... and yet that is what you make every time you try and make a strategy war game with space ships. In reality, you rarely make these kinds of games even though they would be very popular... largely, I would be willing to bet, due to this very issue. The space ship strategy games of the PDU are actually strategy games, not production races to build the biggest single fleet that you can.
The PDU would be much more familiar too you than you know. It would also be the first time you had ever seen this stuff done right, done the way that the original designers of almost all that you know of "space combat" intended.
If you are wondering how I rank my own PDU games as games among themselves...
#1: Struggle of the Ancients, Part 2: Armageddon - A blending of war game and god game, Territories meets GIBROH... or "Territories: The 8[sup]th[/sup] Generation". It might be described as Territories inside of GIBROH, Rube II within Rube III... and Rube II overrides when they are in conflict. That's not a typo, Rube II (Mortal World) overrides Rube III (Zeus, Hades, & Cygnus) because in the PDU the "Gods" only have a vague influence over humanity. This is also my newest and most modern game idea, this version of Armageddon has only emerged in the last year since I "discovered", or "recognized" is really a better word, Rube. In my mind Armageddon is light-years ahead of all of my other games, and it is about 8 years newer than any of the other games as well. Armageddon is something I have come up with from scratch after a big gap between any of my other games. I guess the best word is that I "matured" a lot in that decade or so and this game really does stand head and shoulders above all the rest in my obviously very biased self-evaluating view.
#2: Territories - The origin of Rube, "Rube II". This is not a "quick playing, minimalist" game like some other PDU strategy games. Territories, Armageddon, Clash of the Titans, and Struggle 1: GIBROH are all "full length" strategy games that, like Civilization for example, can only be played in one sitting if you make a day of it. Territories is a game about avoiding nuclear war, played by Dwight Eisenhower's rules which are the rules that the Cold War was played under. The superpowers cannot generally directly confront each other in Territories. It is possible, but not advisable. Territories is largely about indirect warfare through "puppet states", intelligence and special forces operations, small wars and regional conflicts backed by superpowers, diplomacy, and nuclear brinkmanship. A part of Rube is the Avalon Hill concept of "assembling the battle" combined with how the SFB impulse chart functions, and if you play Big Three games and understand both of those things than you certainly have a much better understanding of Rube than anyone else who is reading this. You would also "kind of start to get" what is so special about Territories and Rube. I had posted a part of the Territories land combat system in the forums, and that is a very good example of what I am talking about here.
#3: Mission/Astral Wake Apollo/Fallen Angel Rising - Space... the final frontier... My final "best way" of translating Star Fleet Battles into a real-time computer game. There have been many incarnations of Mission over the years. It might potentially be many different games depending on the resources available to make it. In its highest "3D Rube IV form for the AAA 3D blockbuster dev team" these three games would literally put you into the captain's chair and be that Star Trek dream game people like me have always dreamed of. It's not magic... that version gives up a lot and is very limited in a lot of ways. Less complicated versions of this game are actually, in my view, a lot better in a lot of ways. They are particularly far more diverse in their content and capabilities in the end. That "magic trick" ("It's A Kind Of Magic") of putting you in the captain's chair and turning the bridge into a "holodeck" that "Holodeck Rube IV" can do really does come with a long, long, long list of limitations. So much so, that I don't think it can remain interesting for three games. I have begun to think of the "holodeck" version of Mission as a one-time side game that could be made under a different name, and going back to the previous "pre-Rube IV" version of Mission/AWA/FAR that can be the fully featured "captain of a spaceship" game that just keeps getting better and more complete with each new version of it. With "Holodeck Rube" what the player thinks is happening isn't actually happening... which means that there are a lot of basic things that can never happen, because Holodeck Rube can't do it.
#4: Clash of the Titans - My true "grand strategy war game" in space. There are some influences from the SFU's Federation & Empire in this game. It's the World War II of the PDU galaxy! It's the Rube II powered big galactic-scale space war game of the PDU, and combined with AWA is the single biggest side-arc/"rib" story that is told throughout the timeline ending in the longest aftermath timeline of any era of the PDU at over 1,200 years to the next game... what more needs to be said? Oh yeah... 2112!!! And if you think that is cool, then you'd be absolutely shocked and amazed by what, exactly, it is that combines with 2112 through Astral Wake Apollo to complete the other half of the story. If you like this kind of music, you'd absolutely lose your mind if you knew what the music of Astral Wake Apollo was! Hint: It's not Rush, or Joe's Garage... and there is actually a single, intentionally partially concealed, hint at what it is buried somewhere in this blog;-)
#5: Astral Invasion - Somewhat... unique. Let's say one aspect is a roughly equal relevance of the CoC Navy and EDF Space Marines. AI is more ground oriented than any other space game of the PDU. The humans have a very high level of technology during this era, they have many unusual abilities and powers that make this a very unique era and game. This is far beyond the technology of Star Trek: TNG, the TNG equivalent PDU era was over 1,200 years before this during Clash of the Titans and Astral Wake Apollo. These humans are very, very advanced... and that results in a very unique game. This is really "my own personal" sci-fi era where I have taken things past where I know of them really having been taken before with Star Trek/gaming detail and coming up with my own "Next, Next Generation". As one example of this, the humans of this era are masters of artificial gravitic technologies which, if you really start thinking that through, takes on a wide range of relevant meanings that drastically change the nature of their civilization. This is only one such "civilization transforming" technology that the humans of this era have.
#6: Pirate Dawn - Created to meet the specifications that people in the computer game industry were telling me, in the 1990s, that they wanted instead of the intricate "Big Three" strategy games I was always trying to show them. This is basically a very large arcade game that "any 10-year-old can just pick up a gamepad and start playing"... just like they said they wanted. Only Pirate Dawn and Armageddon Chess have no trace of Rube within them. Pirate Dawn is "just a normal game". The original concept was a blending of the old BBS door games Trade Wars and Barren Realms Elite as a strategy layer on top of a top down space combat arcade game like Star Control and Subspace/Continuum. These layers are what I call "severed" from each other. A kid who comes in and flies around aimlessly shooting at stuff doesn't need to even know that the strategy layer exists, and can't do anything to hurt their own side even if they may not do much to help... although they might, even without knowing it. They are just "Lone Wolf" pilots, really.
#7: Manifest Destiny - Intentionally meant to be a small, streamlined, minimalist "grand strategy war game". The target is for it to be a 90-180 minute long game. Heavily focused on the individual battles between the fleets of ships. This game introduces my "Naval Combat Battle Board" which is also used in Clash of the Titans and Astral Invasion. The NCBB is something that has existed and been evolving for almost 30 years. It could be a very successful small Steam game all by itself, which is what inspired making such a minimalist grand strategy war game like Manifest Destiny around it. The NCBB is a very different "mini game" in the three games it is used in due to the vastly different technology of the ships, and therefore the nature, and far more intricate fleet composition of the later era games. The NCBB is like a far more intricate and complex Axis & Allies battle board, designed specifically to represent naval combat, that could only come out of the SFB Staff. The NCBB is actually a very unique thing. The German's have a third aspect of military doctrine that falls between "tactics" and "strategy". There is no English word for it, but it best translates as "operational" and is largely related to what we call logistics, but is not quite the same thing. This, in turn, inspires an old concept among the SFB Staff that has still never been made into a game, what we called an "Operational Level" game which is a blending of a tactical and strategic level of game. The NCBB is my vision of this concept of an "Operational Level" game. It is not a "tactical combat mini game", and yet in a way it is. It is a roughly equal blending of tactical level and strategic level that is too difficult to really describe in this single paragraph. You can see a tiny glimpse into how the NCBB is generally structured in the 1X Fleet Composition lore file that is included with Pirate Dawn. The way the fleet is structured as "elements" and "sections" is all a part of how the NCBB functions. The NCBB is a very detailed and complete, and yet at the same time extremely abstract and "strategic", representation of fleet combat between large numbers of ships that is easy to manage and resolves fairly quickly. 1 + 1 = Chess.
I'll give this much away about Manifest Destiny: The Fall of the Battleship Hammerfield... The "Historic Campaign" of this game might also be called "Hard Mode", the title of this game is very deceptive and misleading. You are not exactly on a road to glory here as the title might lead you to believe. After their actions during the piracy crises their neighbors don't exactly like the humans very much... to say the least. This is my favorite dramatic moment of the entire PDU story... many very bad things happen during this game. This game is where you would realize that this is not your mother's Star Trek universe;-)
#8: The Trade Wars - Really just a straightforward train game as a strategy layer, running on Rube in a very simple way, with arcade-like tactical starship missions of various types as the tactical layer. This is sort of a slower-paced version of the combat in Pirate Dawn, with far more detailed, larger, and advanced ships. The tactical operation, and engineering, of the ships in this game matches that of Mission/AWA/FAR... these arcade game versions of the ships still function the same way that they do in the simulators. Space ships and "science" work in very specifically detailed ways in this universe, just like in Star Trek and the Star Fleet Universe. Another intentionally smaller, quicker playing, minimalist game like Manifest Destiny except that The Trade Wars has a tremendous amount of lore associated with it. A strange thing, a smaller game with huge background story, as a result of the nature of the PDU. It will be a longer playing game than MD, more like 3-5 hours, Manifest Destiny really is as "small" as I can make it while still truly being a "grand strategy war game". The Trade Wars is mostly an economic game and many of the combat missions resemble piracy. It is something of a transitional theme game-wise matching where the story is going, a blending of geo-political military war game like those to come with an economic piracy type game like Territories and Pirate Dawn of the past.
#9: Struggle of the Ancients, Part 1: GIBROH - This game is Rube III, with opposing "Gods", as described in the first post of this blog. It is really just an enhanced version of the Rube II of Territories and most other games of the PDU which only need one "god". If you are a big fan of long playing "god games" over war games you might vault this one to the very top of your personal list, although Armageddon is a blending of god game and war game... so maybe still only #2 even for you. This is the beginning of the second time through the broken time loop of the PDU, and the beginning of the end of the story. It is what is described in Rush's Hemispheres as the "Struggle of the Ancients", a "battle for the souls of the world" between Zeus & Hades. This game is really just Rube in it's natural state, just Rube being Rube instead of being twisted into a pretzel to make some other game out of it. There are three major "Greek Gods" of the PDU because Neil Peart and I add "Eternal Guardian Cygnus The Twelve" (God of Balance) to Zeus & Hades half way through the story at the end of Mission. Because this is a reset back to the beginning of the dawn of humanity, Cygnus does not exist yet in this game, so this is a 1v1 "struggle" between Zeus & Hades covering most of the period of real world history. A player can choose to be either Zeus or Hades and "build a god" to be used in Struggle of the Ancients, Part 2: Armageddon if you have both games and want to transfer your character to Armageddon from this game.
#10: Armageddon Chess - This was originally just the final ending of Armageddon. This was created in the last 6 months or so as a playable prototype for this blog, and you can download this game right here from my blog and play it right now. Of course it is last on this list... the production constraints were "create a game where you can just send someone a text file, and then they can play the game with around $30 worth of easily find-able stuff". That's not easy. Go ahead, try to rival Armageddon Chess under those conditions. Of course it comes in last being created under those production constraints. It's not in the same league with these other true computer games. If something were behind this game on this list, I'd see a doctor thinking that something must have been seriously wrong with me for all of these years!!! On the other hand... it's not nothing. I wouldn't have posted something here that I didn't think was truly good! If you like Chess, you will probably like Armageddon Chess. I consider it to be the real "Chess II", it is my take on what that should be anyway. This game vastly amplifies the existing complexity of Chess, it has been designed specifically to do that. A "tactical combat layer" over the top of the existing game of Chess, Chess becomes simply the movement rules of Armageddon Chess. You have heard me mention what I call "layers" before, and this "tactical combat layer" laid over the top of Chess is specifically designed to work with and enhance the existing complexity of Chess. Consider how many moves ahead you have to think just to make sure that you won't wind up checkmating yourself by attacking an enemy piece during your own movement turn... Armageddon Chess makes Chess look easy! In this case... 1 + 1 = Chess II. I'd really love to hear what truly good Chess players thought of this game, if there are any out there who have played it (or even taken a good look at it, actually). I am just an average Chess player, I don't get it in the same way that you rated/tournament level players do.
Marc "Kavik Kang" Michalik
Lost Art Studios
"I wish that I could live it all again!"