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From Missions to Meglomania

From Missions to Meglomania

Having read a couple of issues of IGN, been entertained by the stories and starting thinking that there is quite a bit to this game, you may now be ready to take the plunge. If this is the case or even if you have already signed up but are now confused, this article is for you.

You may be wondering where the game is. There is nothing obvious to point you mouse at and no graphics of a ship, just a big ol' table that looks like a forum. Where's the control interface and which buttons controls movement and how do you fire your weapons? Phoenix has none of this - if it did, how could you possibly control a hundred ships simultaneously, each acting independently? How could you march across a world and storm a stronghold with a hundred thousand soldiers? How could you conduct research in a dozen facilities and supervise factories while mining rigs churned up asteroids? Phoenix offers all this and because of this, such things as spinning planets, blaster sounds and real-time control of ships are superfluous to the game, in fact they would make the game unplayable. Phoenix is a strategy, roleplaying, resource and diplomacy game - things happen on all scales, from an assassin putting a bullet in the head of a beloved leader all the way up to a thousand ships launching salvo after salvo of antimatter missiles in a desperate bid to turn the tide of annihilation. What really separates it from massive multi-player games though is that you - yes, you - can do all this - on your own!


Is the game complicated?
Yes and no.

No because the basics are really simple - moving about and transfer items account for most of the things you will be doing and as your initial ships are already fully functional, you don't need to concern yourself with the nitty-gritty. To begin with all you need to do is follow the fairly clear instructions in your missions and get to know the players.

Yes because there is a hell of a lot of it and it is heavily nuanced - three types of movement for ships, more than five types of troops, three types of combat. There is always something new to learn. Many players have specialized in some aspect of the game but are utterly clueless about others. This also pretty much sets it apart from mainstream games that you can learn in a few minutes and equally tire of all too soon. While we are not trying to stop people from joining the game we do feel that a game is really only any good if you have to invest time into learning it and that even after years of playing there are still things to know. Phoenix has been designed as a game for life!

The game is strategic in its implementation in that you submit orders for any or all of your positions and they carry them out. As others are doing the same this can result in very complicated scenarios. There is a lot of planning and plotting in Phoenix. You can have plans that take years to come to fruition or react to events that are over in a day.

Nexus in a Nutshell
This online site has everything you need to play the game. This boils down to just three necessary features:

  • Submit orders for your assets
  • View your assets along with the results of the orders you submitted
  • Access data about the game universe

Everything else, the forums, messaging system, libraries, missions etc are simply bells and whistles that make the game easier and more enjoyable to play.

Missions
So, back to your situation - you have signed up, you have been thrown through the first mission, created your ship, chose a captain and pressed the submit button and wait... Er, why the wait, why not process all submitted orders in real time? And what is with all these bloody numbers?

Some History
Phoenix has its origins in the mists of multi-player gaming - it comes from a time when people used letters and even wrote things by hand - okay, you can stop chuckling now. A set of instructions would be sent into KJC by post, opened by the staff then the orders would be manually inputted. At the end of the day all the turns (the term for the results of the orders and the manifests of the positions) would be printed and posted out back to the players. Attempting to input (DOS screens) names for items, systems and planets was a nonstarter from a commercial point of view. As a consequence all the games used numbers to represent all these fields. While you now have dropdown menus, learning a few numbers can make for quick inputting of orders. For more about what fields exist and details, see the appended section below. Getting to know some of the common numbers can speed up inputting your orders no end though using the dropdowns is a useful way of double-checking your entries as are reviewing your orders on Nexus.
A key feature that endures even to today is the ability to play the game around normal working hours and even take a break for days while your positions are active in the game. Further, as turns were not (and still aren't) processed at the weekend you can play when convenient for you (often generating orders during work breaks).

So, the strategic nature of the game means that you generate orders, submit them and wait for the results. To begin with you are doing a lot of waiting around and then probably spending no more than an hour a week creating orders for your couple of ships (mostly spent looking at maps and rules) - not much to do but then again that's the point. As running individual ships often requires very little time, you can start to collect more ships especially as you can often send two, three or more to help do the same job - you are now on your way to megalomania.

Signing up for a political and joining an affiliation will open the doors to more assets really quickly. Before you know what has happened you could be controlling 20 ships, half a dozen outposts and maybe even a starbase. This will be a very exciting time as you work out things like manufacturing, searching for new ores, maybe even doing some exploration. There will be trade to get to grips with in order to pay for all the personnel that have come with your swelling asset base. You will have questions about blueprints, defenses, weapon systems, platforms, refitting ships, platforms and merchandising. You will be learning about squadrons and creating macro-orders in order to make submitting common sets of orders more efficient. You will be chuckling that you ever spent more than ten minutes a week dealing with a single ship as you become the spider at the centre of a web.


Infinite Expansion
You may look to start your own shipbuilding programme. You will need shipyards, blueprints for ship designs and the components from which ships are built. Are you going to buy these in or go the whole way, mining the minerals, building the hulls, armour and installed items as well as hiring mercenaries and training them up into crew? With large starbases, solid production and research you could be increasing your complement of ships by half a dozen small freighters a week or maybe just a couple of warships. By this point you could be running battle fleets patrolling your empire or trade fleets that span known space. Given a few years you could be running hundreds of ships, dozens of outposts and maybe even a handful of starbases - if your budget allows.

Keeping it Real
At some point however you have to look at what you have, what you want and what you can manage. Ideally all these should be the same, but if you have more than you want or can manage, get help - chat with your affiliation members and allies. Be realistic about your commitment and bin off excess assets. Burn out is a very real phenomena in Phoenix. Some players over the course of half a decade have ended up taking on more than they have time for and have had to go cold-turkey. Generally they return (because there is no game quite like Phoenix) after a break with a promise to themselves to resist the temptation of taking on too much and trying to single-handedly control and run the entire affiliation.

Appendix - Number Fields  [Recruit]

Back in the days of BSE (the postal/email forerunner to Phoenix) you submitted a list of instructions:

Ship Bob's Demise(4855)
Acct: 1234
Move to SS: 1052
Swap Engines
Jump: Capellan (1)
Enter orbit: Agin(854)
Buy from: Ratnest (445)
10 BCMs (35)
Leave Orbit
Jump Starling(160)
Swap Engines
Move to SS:135

This allowed for rapid entering of the instructions, making the game commercially viable.

Decades later, we are still employ the basic numbering system. We do use auto-complete in many places along with dropdowns in alphabetical order but for many veteran players knowing the number is very useful. It's handy knowing that metals is item 1, the Yank star system is 146 and the numbers of your favourite starbase and ships.

So it is handy to know something about the various number lists in the game.

Positions - each position has a unique number between 0 and 100,000
Positions include:

  • Starbases
  • Outposts
  • Ships
  • Ground Parties
  • Agents
  • Operatives
  • Platforms
  • Politicals
  • Cargo Dump


Items - items can have any number though they are rarely above 100,000. Originally items tended to be grouped around number ranges, such as ores with numbers below 50, trade goods with numbers over 30,000 and troops around the 500 region. Years of expanding the item lists due to player research and game upgrades has meant that there has been a blurring of the original structure. While not totally random, an advanced version or a common object may have been inserted into the database at much higher number if the next sequential number had already been assigned.

Item Types - are definitions of items that perform the same task. For example Troops accounts for everything from Felini Marines through to Human Mercenaries. Zero(0) is reserved for Any item. This is quite handy for emptying a position such as a cargo dump of all its contents. There are about 80 Item Types. It is not uncommon to accidently use Pick Up Item Type rather than Pick Up Item. The difference is that Item Type(1) is Troops, while Item (1) is Metals. I am sure more than one person has been as confused as all the soldiers in the cargo hold. It does therefore warrant a little look-see at the boxes, even if you are in a rush.

Officers - officers, though an item are each classed as unique. As there are thousands in the game, they each have their own data held on the item rather than assigning each a space in the item data base. Each officer is preceded with a #. Use this # system when dealing specifically with the officer. The manifests of positions have been designed so that there should be little confusion as officers will be listed in their own section. Just don't forget to use the # symbol when transferring them. Picking up item #1 will take the first officer from the target position. If you are on your way to rendezvous with the warfleet, last thing you want to do is try to explain why you have 1mu of metals(1) in your cargo and no officer on board...
One final point on officers, their numbers can change to accomodate changes to the officer list on a position. If you have an officer then the next one you pick up, even if #1 from the position you are picking up from, will become #2 at the time of being added to your position. If you intend to deliver this new officer, then remember to use #2 or you will transfer your original officer.

Systems - Each system has a unique number. While you can theoretically enter any number into the orders, i.e. Jump to system 5, unless the system is common knowledge or you have specific knowledge of the system you will be told in your report that you do not know about this system. Alternatively, if you do know about it, there may be no obvious route to it. There are a few reasons for this. The system may require your ship to move through stargates or wormholes or may be beyond a region of space that you do not know about. When starting the game it is best to simply follow the missions and study the maps.
Halo-Kastorian Space - the best way to leave Halo is to move to the wormhole in Agripeta and enter it. This will bring you out in Yank in safe Kastorian Space (Outer Capellan Periphery).

Planets - These include planets, moons, gas giants, asteroids, belts, nebulae, stargates wormholes and anomalies. They are unique numbers within a system. A moon in one system for example can share the same number as a planet in another.

Resources and Mineral Deposits (ID#'s) - These are unique to the world on which they exist. It is a common mistake to use the item number rather than the ID#. For example a resource of Food (30048) may have ID# (1085) - Exploit Resource order should therefore use 1085, not 30048.

There are other fields though armed with the above information, everything else should be relatively straight forward.


 
News
Is open for business...
 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Meklan Unleashed on Mobile Bay

Mad Dewiek scientist Dr Kala released a number of Meklan on the busy world of Mobile Bay in the Yank system. Thousands of civilians have been killed in what is treated by DEN warlords as an amusing practical joke. Rather than take any responsibility for their affiliation’s reckless behaviour, a DEN lord rumoured to be half-meklan himself quipped he would nuke the planet whilst another merely saw it as an opportunity to test some of his greener troops in combat. Surprisingly, the KAS planetary defence force was up to the job of repelling the insidious incursion. Questions remain whether further meklan are stored elsewhere on the planet and whether anybody will challenge the Dewiek’s lack of care for the lives of innocents. Probably not, given how even the mighty IMP are now cowering from a fight with the DEN (see inside this edition).


 
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Who is behind the AFA?

Following the large scale holiday attack by the AFA against the FET the question of who is behind the attacks has been raised once again. What is clear is that the AFA is using ships that were transferred from the GTT to the IMP. The organisation and expertise of the operation also reduces the pool of potential candidates. Few can go from commanding a handful of broadswords to half a thousand warships and significant army logistics without a long stint in one of the more combative affiliations. With the DEN’s allies the HEX in close relations with the FET and no recent history of animosity between the aliens and FET, at least since the departure of former one-eye big-bun Norozov, it would be a bizarre turn of events if they were behind these attacks. Frankly, there’s no point dancing around it. The IMP are clearly behind the AFA. The question is what can anybody do about this move of significant Imperial resources to a black-flag agency?


 
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Fox Effects Fantastic Turnaround

With his feet barely under the table, Xavier Fox has managed to dramatically turn things around at the GTT. With year-on-year sales figures up by 23%, manufacturing up 42% and ship production increased by 36%, the megacorporation is running at full steam with noticeable impact on local economies across the Stellar Empire. Political analysts also note that after a period of retrenchment following the disastrous leadership of Ike Krieger, investment in defence is at a five-year high. After such bullish growth, the trick will be for Mr. Fox to recruit C-level executives fast enough to match his ambitions. It is notable in temperament, the current crop of GTT politicals do not exhibit the monomaniacal xenophobia of their predecessors and have resisted repeated provocations by the DEN to enter a pointless spar before they have re-established superiority against the foolhardy aliens.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Felini flounder in Winter against superior Dewiek forces

The FEL have managed to get their asses kicked by the DEN yet again after provoking the definitely “not cute or cuddly” Dewiek in the Crossley system. The furry punching bags had bought a civilian flagged outpost in the system, without permission or under certain conditions depending on who you ask, and then had the gall to reinforce this error by positioning warships in orbit. The famously patient warlord Halvor did not buy the story these heavy hull armed ships were merely transports and sent a pack to clear the orbit. The mouthy yet green Felini fleet commander Pr'prz fancied his chances against what looked like a light complement of DEN warships and ordered his own warships to engage in the neighbouring Winter system. The result was predictably a wipe out of the FEL forces consisting of forty-seven capital warships at no loss to the DEN. Once again, a series of calamitous decision making resulted in Felini lives being wasted by a leadership barely fit to clean a litter tray. The otherwise untested Halvor can now claim some victory ale although with his penchant for picking on creatures as weak as Gracians, it’s not exactly clear how much glory this new breed of Dewiek warrior can claim against the legends of old.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Dastardly Dewiek Disregard Yank Neutrality

The governor of a MRC outpost in the Yank system reports that a 400-hull DEN warship called Grey Hunter Axiom entered orbit of Spritzer and opened fire with weapons of mass destruction (WoMD) against a platform, outpost, ground party and ship. Reports indicate significant casualties to Kastorian personnel both in space and on the ground. The KAS Junta is gruffly warning, with a slightly indifferent air, that everybody better stay out of the sector of the outpost for their own health. It is unclear what measures the KAS have or will take against the DEN on this matter. Such a breach of Yank neutrality has in the past caused the Dewiek to froth at the bit against the Empire for their disregard of ‘civilised’ norms. Their current silence on this matter speaks volumes.


 
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Yenni-bodies Pirates?

A PIR outpost was miraculously discovered by an IMP freighter, of all things, in the Yanni system with several Javelin class warships in orbit. After noticing the IMP freighter and seeing the public post by Jack Jones on subspace, the PIR decided to flee and leave a combined force of IMP and FET forces to capture the outpost. A brain damaged three-year old commentator who still believed in the goodness of people and Santa Claus was quick to commend the IMP on their good work, dismissing those who thought it no more than a convenient clearing up operation signifying* completion of operations in the nearby FET claimed systems of Graydown, Canth and Onissian by IMP puppet Edward Lowe. Meanwhile, the Wolf Lord Lyceum summed up the view of many when he screamed, “What is this amateur b*llshit?” into an uncaring universe.


 
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Crowe Coups Self

The IMP Viceroy Tiberius Crowe has finally achieved something in his unremarkable tenure by relinquishing even the semblance of wearing big boy pants and instead, appointed Jack Jones as Patrol Commissioner, salty spokesperson and policy maker for the Empire. Crowe will now join CIA Director Laton in riding the special bus to work where the two of them will enjoy long pleasant afternoons sipping cups of tea. Actually, just tepid fruit-scented water as neither of them can be fully trusted with a hot kettle. Occasionally, they might be visited by equally dynamic war “veteran” Admiral Bridge to enjoy mimes presenting the latest comics from the Howl. Meanwhile, Jones is putting pressure on the FET and will soon no doubt find a pretext to deploy his vast mercenary forces against anyone else who is seen working too closely with his most hated of enemies, the HEX.


 
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Highlord Aadolf Loses Control As Dewiek Break Peace Treaty

Around one hundred DEN warships have launched an attack on a small GTT destroyer squadron of forty ships in the Daggern system. Two GTT ships were destroyed and another fifteen suffered noticeable damage. CEO Xavier Fox issued a restrained but angry statement demanding the DEN explain themselves. Highlord Aadolf’s buffoon-like response amounted to “Dewiek be Dewiek, let’s drink and forget about it.” Cold comfort for the dead crew onboard the GTT ships and their families. Especially, as seems likely at this time, the Empire will settle for some bloody money instead of retribution.


 
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The Worm Turns

The FET have reduced relations with the IMP to neutral. Sneezy boss Cu Chulainn took the bold step of putting 1 and 1 together by linking recent mercenary attacks in their systems with the IMP scouts seen loitering for some time and refusing to move. Even bolder, hints that they believe “a certain Imperial citizen” is responsible for Edward Lowe’s entire underhand operation were voiced loudly enough that the handsome but hard of hearing Tiberius Crowe had to take note. He was seen grappling in trademark fashion with his skin tight jacket, pulling it down over his partially concealed middle-aged girth, as he sat to issue a terse public statement. Exactly who this citizen may be was left unnamed and no news channel subject to Imperial laws would dare unmask the villain. Luckily dear readers, we are not subject to phony Imperial laws. It’s Jack Jones everybody. Jack Jones, butcher of Naplians and fancier of silver long johns.


 

Free Ship when you sign-up
Complete missions for in game rewards
Control everything, up to an entire empire
Dedicated human moderators
Player and Moderator driven plotlines
Discover new worlds to explore, exploit & colonise
Over 20 years of content development
Persistent Browser-Based Game (PBBG)

I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
-Zigic