A Newbie in Netrekland: 24/10/99

Link to: Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four

Twinkle, twinkle little (exploding) star

Clued-up guys: Before you start sending me rabid emails about possible inaccuracies in the below account, I can't recall exactly what order this stuff happened. Suffice to say that I was a *little* too annoyed to remember exactly how many times, and in what ways, Netrek didn't work. Give me a break.

I feel a lot more confident today. Today, I think to myself, is a good day to get my ass thoroughly whupped at Netrek. I double click on the Netrek icon, and lo and behold, it works (due to the fact that I changed the metaserver in the config file). A nice little menu showing the different servers pop up, and click on one to join it. I log in as guest, and to my surprise, everything works!

I click on the side I want to join, and... and that's about it. Because I just got kicked out of the game (my command line prompt tells me I've been 'ghostbusted'. What does that mean? How am I supposed to know? Telling me that I've been ghostbusted doesn't help me much).

I try again. And I get kicked out. This goes on for a while. I swear at the computer. I calm down, and notice another executable next to the Netrek icon, called Netrekp. Apparently it's for when you're behind a firewall. Fair enough, I think, I'll give it a try.

Firewalls: I'm not completely clueless, you know. I didn't think I had a firewall, and yes, I do know what I firewall is.

This time, everything works. I get the metaserver menu, I join an empty game, click on the side I want to join, and putter about in my spacecraft.

How to fly: You press the number keys for the speed you want to go. You click with the right mouse button in the direction you want to fly, and you click the left mouse button in the direction you want your torpedoes to fire.

Since I still don't have a Netrek FAQ, I don't know the trick of loading up computer-controlled bots up onto the map so I can have a practice dogfight. I need the FAQs!

After about, let's see, 30 seconds of this, I get bored and want some human competition. I quit this empty server, and join another one also as guest. I click on the side I want to join, and then I appear in the game.

Yay. I try to move. Nothing works, I can't move. I can't fire, and I can't turn. I can, however, read the messages. I send out a plaintive cry for help, saying that I'm a newbie in trouble, could someone please help me.

To the Netrekkers credit, they did offer constructive advice about how to fly, and other stuff. I was eventually told to try logging out, then back in again. That didn't work. So I gave up.

A few hours later, I try again. This time, for some inexplicable reason, I can fly. Very confusing, but there you go. I get into a good old fashioned dogfight with two other people, and I amazingly managed to kill them one or two times (during which process I got killed, what, a dozen times myself). But I'm happy enough. Slowly yet surely, more and more people start joining the game.

(Strangely enough, there seemed to be loads of people from the UK. I never thought there were so many people in the UK who played Netrek - by that, I mean more than four).

This is when it went downhill. I started getting killed all the time, yet I did manage to (just about) hold my own and kill a few of the enemy. I'm having a good time flying about, when I notice the message on the Team board appear:

'f, please eject yourself'

I look at my spacecraft icon. I'm Ff (that's F for Federation, and f for my unique identifier). So this guy is talking to me. In about half a second, my mood drops from good to thoroughly pissed off. A few seconds pass.

'f, do you copy, please eject yourself'

By this, the guy means, you're crap, please quit the game so that someone better can take your place. At least he gives me the option of quitting 'voluntarily' rather than getting forcibly booted out, which would have been infinitely more embarrassing. As it was, I was pretty embarrassed and quit the game the next time I died. So that finished today's Netrek session.

Don't get me wrong. I can see this guy's point of view - after all, if I was playing and I had some guy on my team who kept on getting killed, I wouldn't take too kindly to him. But all the same, it's not encouraging. It's downright disheartening. And it presents a Catch-22 situation.

How on earth is a newbie supposed to get good at this game? I mean, I'm not even a proper newbie at that. While I don't have the FAQs on me now, I used to have them, and I did read them all through properly (that took a fair bit of time, I can tell you now). Either you just hang around on games with small numbers of players, which to be honest isn't the most fun you can have, or you connect to a proper game where you run the risk of being 'asked' to leave because you're frankly shit.

What's a newbie to do?

This also exposes another problem. I don't think that every who plays Netrek would have asked me to eject myself. In fact, I don't think that many at all would have. But it only takes one.

Dogfights and proper games: When there are only a few people connected to a server, you're only messing about in dogfights. When (I think, since I don't have the FAQs, grumble grumble) there are 8 or more people connected, the game shunts into the 'proper game' mode where all the features come into play. What features? I'll tell you later

Problems to be solved

What's this business with firewalls? You need to make it clear to newbies that if one program doesn't work, try the other one.

2. Why did my ship freeze up? I don't get this.

Figure out what you're going to do with newbies.

Will you let them mess up your proper games, or would you prefer to have good games by kicking out newbies, thereby alienating every single beginner to Netrek in existence? (Note how I don't give you much of an option here) This is one of the biggest problems Netrek has - newbies. Sort it out.


Make a good tutorial programme.

I haven't seen them yet myself, but there seems to be some kind of game recorder option on the Netrek programme. My idea is that you get people to act out set piece (like elementary flying, dogfighting, bombing, scouting, ogging, etc) and put it into a Netrek recorded game. If there is a way, work out how to put subtitles on it so that people can understand what's going on. If that's not feasible, write up a text file that explains each set piece.



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