A Newbie in Netrekland: 25/10/99
Things can only get better
Today, on the whole, was a much better day. My confidence in the survival of Netrek has, slightly, been improved. But that doesn't mean there isn't work to be done.
I load up the game, and decide to join a 12 player game at Continuum (a popular Netrek server). Maybe they'll be a bit more tolerant this time, I think, as I click to join my chosen race. Well, if they had a chance to be tolerant, I'm sure they would have been, but for some reason the same problem I had before crops up again and I can't more or fire. Bleah. This happens several times.
I eventually give up, and move onto an empty server. This time, I reckoned I'd have a serious go at trying to find out how to start bots. After about 5 minutes of trawling around on the web from netrek.org, I find an immensely useful command list buried in the middle of the Netrek Information Archive, possibly the most useful thing I've found so far (since I still can't download that damnable Newbie FAQ).
So I find out that to start up a bot (a computer controlled player that you can train with) I have to press *. Hmm. I figure that I probably have to send a message with * to someone, after all, that's how I send my 'Yes, I am a clue' confirmation to the server. Nothing happens. I get pissed off, and reckon that the commands apply for another client.
Randomly pressing * around the screen finally spawns a bot, which is when I realise that I have to press it while the pointer is in the main action window. Obviously. I have a bit more fun now that there's someone to shoot at, and I happily get myself killed about 10 times. Everyone's happy.
I can tell you now that I could spend hours playing against a bot and learn how to play like that. Not only would be it good for me, but it'd keep me out of all the clued-up people's way, and save me lots of phone bill. I'm sure it can be done somehow.
The turn of events happen pretty much like they did last night, now. I go to a server with only 2 people on it. One is clued-up, another is a newbie like me. We happily throw ourselves to our deaths at the clued-up guy, but what gives? It's fun. Gradually, players start to trickle in. I bump into a guy I met from yesterday's game, someone from Edinburgh. Netrek is a small world after all. After a few minutes of scrapping, I got asked whether I was a newbie. It's that obvious. The other guy owned up as well, though.
In a moment of deja-vu, enough players join to start a proper game (it's called Tournament Mode, or T-Mode). People start bombing planets and taking ours, and my side gets its asses whupped. This continues until someone begins to marshal our side, and I start to feel like a proper team member as we storm back towards retaking our planets, giving out covering fire for the army carrier and escorting him. Nice.
Basic game mechanics: All the planets produce 'armies' every so often - I think every 40 seconds or something like that. Just don't quote me on it - and you can bomb the enemies by orbiting their planets and, well, pressing the bomb key. You can pick up your own armies once you've accrued a certain number of kills, and use them to take over enemy planets. And that's pretty much the bare bones strategy to the game. Bomb the enemy like hell, protect your own planets, get kills so you can carry armies and take over the enemy's planets.
I did a lot better this time and managed to kill a few people (admittedly by getting myself killed in the process, but it's an improvement). And not once did I get asked to leave. Incredible. Then people start leaving the game, and I quit.