Copyright © 2000 by Jérôme Zago
Stellar Crisis is the first turn-based multi-player war game that runs on the Web using form submissions as user input. It was written initially by Sylvan Clebsch and made its first appearance in 1992. No downloads are required and no Java, ActiveX controls or support for scripting languages are needed. If you can read the HTML version of the FAQ and your browser can post forms, then you can play.
Stellar Crisis was inspired by a long line of strategy games, like Risk and Diplomacy. The current version derives directly from the very popular Stellar Crisis v2.8. All versions of Stellar Crisis are released under the GNU Public License.
The current version of Stellar Crisis has been made possible by the contribution of code and ideas from the following (with apologies for any omissions):
Stellar Crisis is a strategy game played on a planetary scale, in which multiple empires fight for the control of a galaxy. This said, it does not intend to be realistic.
The objective of a Stellar Crisis game is to develop a small planetary civilization into a galactic empire, overcoming enemy aliens and creating powerful coalitions with friendly races. There is no artificial intelligence built into Stellar Crisis (yet); every empire that one might encounter belongs to another player logged in via the Internet. A game ends when there are no more enemies left in the galaxy: either only one empire remains or those who remain are all in a state of alliance. Empires are eliminated by destroying their homeworld with a nuclear weapon unleashed by a ship or fleet of ships.
However, Stellar Crisis is more than a simple war game. It is possible to establish diplomatic relationships with other empires, which can range from all-out war to resource sharing alliances. Different players have different means of achieving the goal of supreme domination of the universe: some prefer to establish multiple liaisons and use teamwork to defeat their opponents, while others opt for more individualistic approaches. There are game types that allow and encourage alliances and others that force empires to survive on their own. The central virtue of Stellar Crisis gameplay is that there is a great diversity of roles, strategies and options to explore, so no two games are ever alike.
A Stellar Crisis game is assigned a predetermined amount of time that serves as an interval between turns or "updates". When an update is executed by the server, the orders entered by a player on behalf of his empire are processed. These orders include such actions as building or moving ships, executing special actions such as colonizing a planet, nuking a planet, terraforming a planet or changing diplomatic status with another empire.
Stellar Crisis games are based upon a map of planets, which can be thought of as a connected graph. Each planet would be a node in the graph and each link between planets a connections between one node and another. Links between planets indicate paths for ships to travel along.
Ships can move one "jump" or perform one special action per update. There are several different types of ships that can perform different types of actions. For example, "science" ships can explore along previously uncovered links; "colony" ships can colonize unclaimed planets; etc. All mobile ships can "nuke", which is the action that returns colonized planets to unclaimed status and reduces their resource levels.
Each empire begins with the ownership of one (in some cases, several) planet, which is called a "home world". The links off the home world will usually be unexplored at the beginning of the game, so the first action of an empire in any game will be to construct science ships and begin exploring the galaxy. When ships from different empires meet for the first time, combat will occur and the empires will be inserted into each other's "diplomacy" screens, allowing them to establish different diplomatic levels: war, truce, trade or alliance.
Ship combat resolution in Stellar Crisis is rather complex. A simple formulation would be as follows: ships will fight until the greater force has completely eliminated the lesser force. Note that ships belonging at truce or greater with one another will fight as a unit against a common foe. It is also important to observe that there is no random element whatsoever in ship combat resolution, beside which ships are destroyed. A more detailed discussion of ship combat can be found in section XXX.
The economic aspect of Stellar Crisis is very important. Each planet possess three different resource parameters: agriculture, fuel and minerals. The former allows population to increase on a planet and exploit the other two, which allow empires to build more ships. Agriculture is shared amongst all the planets in the empire, so planets with great agricultural resources but small amounts of minerals or fuel are still very valuable.
Ships can only be built on planets that possess a high population level, so it is important to colonize planets with agriculture early and allow their populations to grow.
Another important aspect of a game is technological development. An empire develops a certain technological level based upon the amount of resources (fuel and minerals) that it has and the amount that it consumes each update in the building and maintenance of ships. The less resources consumed, the more the technological level will increase each update. At certain fixed intervals (when the technology level reaches certain values) the empire gains the capacity to build stronger ships, which can give it decisive advantages in ship combat.
A Stellar Crisis game ends when one empire or coalition of allied empires obliterates every other empire. An empire is obliterated when its home world is nuked by an opponent, in which case all of its colonized planets become unclaimed. In some cases, the game can also be drawn between all the remaining empires.
Therefore, successful Stellar Crisis play requires players to balance the following aspects:
The greater the percentage of the full map available to a player, the better his chances of success. Exploration is needed both to find resource-laden planets to colonize and to view enemy empires' activities.
Once explored, planets must be colonized and defended against enemy ships that may be in the vicinity. The more planets colonized, the better an empire's economy and the higher its chances of success.
Other empires will compete for planets in "no-man's-land" and will attempt to weaken each other by nuking their already-colonized planets. Defensive easures will be required to defeat invaders.
The best defense is a good attack; the best way to keep an empire busy is to attack it and force it to defend itself.
If an empire spends too many resources building ships, then its technological development will suffer and more frugal empires will in the long run be able to develop stronger fleets and win the decisive battles.
Sometimes the best way to "beat" a strong enemy is to join him. Successful choices of alliance partners can lead to victories that would otherwise be impossible.
The successful Stellar Crisis player will learn to balance these aspects and achieve a healthy economy through exploration and colonization while maintaining a high technological level, stopping enemy probes from exploring its territory and establishing relationships of alliance with other empires of similar potency.
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