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The Daily Run

Daily Running of Phoenix

From the player perspective it just seems a case of create some orders and press submit. The orders are collected, processed along with everything else and the results generated. This can lead to confusion as to why certain things happen as they do.

This is essentially a breakdown of what happens on a given day.

Start - Around 7am
Only turns that have been submitted by 6.50am GMT can be guaranteed to meet the deadline.
Download Emails
This checks a specific mailbox, pulls down everything and deletes them from the mailbox. It then has to decode any attachments, remove spam and check passwords and positions before adding them to the directory for incoming orders.

Possible issues
If the mailbox is not accessible the game will halt until the issue is resolved. We once had an issue with somebody mailing their entire turn directory as an order attachment. This caused the game to crawl as it attempted to download and read it for possible turns. This prompted a limit on the mail size to be set. Early on there were issues with unusual encoding for file attachments. These though have long since been resolved and we haven’t had issues in nearly many years.

Download Nexus Turns and Ancillary Data
While the game engine is dealing with the emails, DBsync shunts down turns that have been uploaded to Nexus from off-line order editors and those created using the Nexus Order Editor. Again there is a fair bit of data checking.

Ancillary data includes new ship designs, votes, changes to relations, mission actions and most importantly any new users (sign-ups).

Possible issues
These are not too common though generally relate to the shunting down of data. Data drop-outs can cause partial data downloads though DBsync has an indicator when this happens and a manual download can be initiated if necessary. This tends to occur when there are world events that are making the internet unstable (ISP maintenance, hacktivists hitting major nodes).
Once this has been done, Nexus is updated with the game status.

Maintenance Run
The next step is purely Game Editor and starts the process of organising the daily run. It updates the game with respect to new accounts and mission requests along with working out votes. There are quite a few steps to this of which the primary output at our end is a list of politicals to be maintained on the day and their current wealth.

Once these steps have been completed, a list of positions due for maintenance is generated. All positions undergo maintenance once per week on a pre-set day. For ships this is merely paying wages and seeing if the ship and its cargo decay a little more. For starbases it includes a full raft of checks, including research, production and merchandising to name a few. For starbases, outposts and political positions it will also process any orders that have been submitted for the position along with any standing orders, these being orders that have been specifically set to run at the time of maintenance (special actions are shuffled out and set for processing later in the day). For other positions, their orders will be processed later, even if they are maintained now.

The positions are processed sequentially from the first position to the last in the list.
Possible issues

The only real issue with this is that when a starbase, outpost or political has been set so that it runs after another position. If this happens to be on its maintenance day, it will remove any sequencing as it processes the orders for the position during this stage.

Orders Run
After the maintenance run is completed, the game editor moves on to create a list of all positions that have orders to process. This includes starbases, politicals and outposts that have not had their maintenance on this day. In the case of these positions, they need to have submitted a request update along with the submission of orders of the results of their orders will be appended to their between turns file to be generated when they next have a turn.

This is the longest part of the day and can account for thousands of positions encountering hundreds of positions. The amount of data that is processed means that a lot of effort has been made to make the code run as fast as possible where the code segments are used a lot. Nowadays, all positions are loaded into memory when they are first called and remain in memory until the game is closed. There are still a few more tricks to pull that Darak is working on though the separating of the run into orders and specials means that turns are sent out much earlier in the day.

Possible issues
This is a robust part of the game. If issues occur then it is highly likely that they are due to a recent upgrade. Positions that enter battles have their turns suspended and the position is removed from the front interface to prevent dozy GM meddling. This means that in some circumstances the submission of a special action will not even be accessible until after a battle is run. This can occasionally prove frustrating for players seeking to issue a mid-battle action.

An issue that thankfully happens infrequently is where a sequence includes a position with a special action. This halts the entire run in order for the GM to deal with the special action. The usual culprit is a ship in the middle of nowhere doing a surface exploration that has inexplicably been sequenced to a bunch of other positions presumably by accident. The other suspect is a base issuing a special action along with build hiport and therefore sequenced before the delivering ship. Occasionally, in fact, very rarely, there is a legitimate reason and the special action will be dealt with there and then.

Generally speaking, a halt in the run is spotted fairly promptly and dealt with. If you have sequenced specials into a run and turns arrived later than usual, then you probably have yourself to blame...

Battles
Battles require little more than selecting the identified battle and pressing a button – though the Game Master may take a closer look at any battle prior to initiating it. This may be done if there is something suspicious about the battle. These sorts of things used to be much more common, before the days of alliances, do not target lists and relations. On more than one occasion I have intervened for example when a Confederate (or was it Brotherhood) starbase and platform mistakenly added everybody to the enemy lists. I think that the pre-combat list indicated that a few dozen starbases, outposts and many more ships would have been pulled in.

Possible issues
This has been something of a minefield over the years as players have always pushed the boundaries. The biggest bugbear to date was the sending of entire warfleets into combat without enemy lists. The reliance on defend and support only resulted in spiralling checks as it looked for anyone willing to attack so that it could assign everybody to following them – over a thousand ships and not a set of balls between them. Something of an inruptus castratum. The code has now been modified to prioritise checks making this issue a thing of the past.

Where we are aware that there could be an issue, such as battles with thousands of ships, we will as a precaution take a battle-back-up. This pulls only part of the game data but reduces the time for a restore considerably. Over the years as the code has become ever more robust, this feature, like many others has become largely redundant and an unnecessary time constraint.

Finish Order Run and Send
After battles and updates to battling positions have been completed the next step is to add the manifests to the positions in the order run and any positions in the maintenance run that are to be sent out. This leaves only the positions with special actions, investigations and explorations outstanding.
At this point the game has generally been running solidly for around two hours and everything should have been received before lunch (in the UK).

This step assigns the turns to the email client and DBsync, freeing up the editor for the Game Master to deal with the remaining positions and their orders. As these are two separate programs they run simultaneously. On a day with few internet issues, the uploading of turns to Nexus will take around an hour while emails take around twice as long. Nexus is updated as to the progress.
As part of the step Nexus is also updated to include changes in markets, squadrons, treaties, stellar transactions, missions and a raft of other things including personal data.

Possible issues
The main issue is internet connectivity. While DBsync attempts retries that cope very well with natural blips, a longer drop-out will cause a halt that needs to be manually reset. This can cause timing issues as a complete fail close to the end of an upload requires it to start again. This is because it is normally a lot faster to upload all the data files (html turn results) then update the database that links them to Nexus accounts.

The email client however deals with turns individually so any drop-out simply requires the client to be started again. These are not particularly common.

Specials Run
Before we separated special actions from the orders run there was always the pressure to try to finish the run as fast as possible, or at least defer special actions if it was getting late in the day. This is simply because players need time to evaluate the results of the day before creating and submitting more orders. In the case of battles getting the results of a battle back in the early evening meant submitting orders for the next day was very difficult.

During this phase the Game Master simply deals with the explorations, investigations and special actions submitted for the positions. This is often very time consuming with the need for breaks (some days can feel like sitting exams). More details about being a Game Master for Phoenix can be found in IGN 5. Breaks in this case are often doing other things for the game such as writing IGN’s, looking at data in the game, discussing game improvements with Darak and answering PM’s – amongst other things.

Possible Issues
There is always the situation where a special action can present itself as part of a sequence of turns. Often this is simply a player getting over enthusiastic with the sequence request and they don’t really need some chaps to examine amphibians before their warfleet teams up with the rest of the armada. When these pop up a quick glance at the sequencing list allows the position to be removed from the list. There is also the potential that the actions of the position could trigger a battle though to date this has not happened in a situation where it is at all significant.

Send Specials and Back-up
The sending of these turns is as above, though rarely takes more than a couple of minutes though this second time there is also turn fee charges included. Following this the game normally initiates back-up.



Weekly Markets
On a Monday, there is an extra step. This calls the routines that sell goods from starbases to the planetary markets. This step also deals with income generated from claiming systems. This is very intensive and takes more than an hour to run though as it is done overnight, has no significant impact on game timing.

Bank Holidays
With Bank holidays everything is effectively run twice, one complete day after the other. The only real difference between the two runs is that in the first run only a couple of hours are spent doing Game Mastering (investigations etc). Sometime after lunch when an hour or so has passed since turns have been uploaded, all remaining positions will have their orders deferred. It is not quite this arbitrary though. The Game Master will have a look at the turns to see if some are urgent and try to give appropriate priority.

Deferred positions will depending on their type, be pushed through the next run or their next maintenance (in the case of bases). Then it is just a case of completing the stages and starting again with a new download.




 
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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***** Inter Galactic News *****

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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***** Inter Galactic News *****

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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***** Inter Galactic News *****

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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***** Inter Galactic News *****

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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***** Inter Galactic News *****

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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***** Inter Galactic News *****

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