COMMUNICATION FROM POST BETA-9.5 (from Star Fleet archives July 18, 2004)
Star Fleet Fans:
Below is my review of the most recent StarFleet Deluxe (version 0.95). Level 8 and above are incredibly hard. It took me 32 missions to beat level 8. I finally got patient and stopped usnig risky strategies. The game is as addictive and maddeningly hard at level 9 as the original was. I have finally completed all ranks of the game, achieving Admiral Emeritus status.
The review is organized into three sections: "Awesome Improvements" let you know the things Trevor and Brett Keeton (may he rest in peace) implemented perfectly. A second section lists possible bugs, and in a third section includes some suggestions. Click here for screen shots of me playing SFD .
Thanks to Trevor for getting us this close to a new StarFleet Battles game. I think version 0.95 of SFD is very close to a perfect remake/upgrade of the original. It is true to the gameplay of Starfleet Battles I; The War Begins (which I played in my youth on a PCjr) while adding new graphics and strategic elements to make the game even more interesting and challenging than the original.
-- Vice Admiral K.A.
I. Awesome Improvements:
- REALISM: The change in the Mission from the original "kill X number of enemies in Y days" to "clear the sector of enemies" makes more sense. Enemies retreat when appropriate, especially after enemy command ship is killed.
- GAMEPLAY - COLONIES:Your goal is now to protect the colonies, which is a more logical objective and provides allies to defend (protecting them also gives additional percentage points to up your ranking, just like protecting a starbase form attack always has). Colonies also allow you to view the enemy status in adjacent quadrants.
- INTERFACE: The improvement in graphics is a nice upgrade while leaving the graphics simple enough to be able to be ported to handheld devices at some point.
- GAMEPLAY: Very fast compared to original game. No long waits.
- INTERFACE: Mouse support adds ease of play.
- REALISM: Stars and bases are in fixed sectors within their quadrant, instead of being randomly placed each time you return to the quadrant. This makes it possible to navigate directly next to a starbase even when making a jump from another quadrant.
- REALISM: Several bases can be attacked at the same time, making your defense duty more difficult, and new enemy vessels can enter quadrant while fighting or flee the quadrant during the attack to go refuel from an enemy supply ship.
- GAMEPLAY: Krellans invade your defensive region map region from the top of the screen (their area) towards your area in a steady advance. You start the game with an unknown region and you can't see where the Krellans are massing to attack.
- INTERFACE: Sectors only show current enemy status when a base, colony, or your ship is nearby. You no longer get quadrant-wide updates on sectors you have visited unless there is a UGA ship, base, or colony in the adjacent sector.
- GAMEPLAY: Your long-range sensors are now automatic when moving to a new quadrant.
- GAMEPLAY: Shields are now intelligently distributed when computer raises them. No more shielding a sector that is on the edge of the quadrant.
- GAMEPLAY: Krellans intelligently come to the defense of bases and other ships and retreat at appropriate times.
- GAMEPLAY: In addition to power and prisoners, you can transfer torpedos from a captured ship.
- REALISM: Damage is sometimes so severe, the affected system is unrepairable, requiring you to get a repair part new from a starbase.
- GAMEPLAY: Game humor is intact; although it appears no new jokes were added.
- GAMEPLAY: Krellans wil colonize a planet while you are present (and you can, too)
- GAMEPLAY: Gameplay is much faster, which is different, but a nice improvement. Play is more fluid as the enemy intelligently attacks and retreats.
- GAMEPLAY - DIFFUCULTY: Since new enemy ships can come into your sector during battle, it is more dangerous to capture and deliver an enemy ship.
- INTERFACE: You can shoot torpedos through your mines without disturbing them; although an enemy's torpedo will discharge on your mine and destroy it, making it possible for you to shield a base from limited torpedo attack. You can move your ship through mines, and it retrieves the mine when you do so, which can be a valuable strategy option.
- INTERFACE: Mousing over bases, colonies, and ships gives you their current status as a pop-up label.
- GAMEPLAY: Torpedo capacity is higher than in original game. 25 from starbase and 40+ max holding capacity if you pick up torpedos from enemies.
- GAMEPLAY: When towing a ship and an enemy comes into the quadrant, shilds are only raised on the side of attackers, so your tractor beam isn't always cut off.
II. Possible Bugs
- CRASH: Crashed 3 times; once while in transit I exited next to a starbase, ended up one quadrant beyond and it still asked me if I wanted to dock. Sorry, but that's all the info for consistency in crashes I can think of; although almost all were during a base attack. Once at level 2, and a couple again around level 7 and 8. I've player well over 100 games, so crashes are infrequent and didn't mess up any player files.
- GAMEPLAY: Destroyed starbases still send messages of enemy breaking off attack.
- GAMEPLAY: No medals are given if the mission ends in your promotion to the next level.
- INTERFACE: You can click on grey unexplored quadrants and see the number of enemy ships within and thus you can spot where a cruiser from a distance without exploring the quadrants.
- GAMEPLAY: Game seems less difficult in finding ship intruders and the intruders don't move between levels as often as with the original. This takes away some of the required strategy of launching a security search immediately. Doing a security search no longer uses up a turn, but I think that's a smart change.
- GAMEPLAY: Lowering a shield to regain some power units in an emergency when Shield Control is damaged seems more likely to succeed than in the orignal game, but it does fail to work sometimes. Trevor, you can leave this aspect of the easier--it's a cruel world out there, especially when your sjild control is damaged.
- GAMEPLAY: You can beam across multiple sectors to a planet. At first, I assumed my ship would need to be right next to one, like needing to be next to a base to dock.
- GAMEPLAY: If your auxillery engine becomes damaged beyond repair, there's really no option except attack any ships in your quadrant or hyperspace to a new quadrant. (Yes, I said Hyperspace!) Or, I guess you could try to wait out a mission if you didn't get attacked.
- GAMEPLAY: Rating percentage seems to be computed based on when the mission is scheduled to end, and sometimes drops dramatically if the enemy flees and you win that mission early.
- INTERFACE: When you run out of time with only one enemy ship left, "Vessels" is still plural, but shouldn't be.
- GAMEPLAY: Two separate Krellan ships beamed their men to a planet in the same round, even though already occupied by the first beaming.
- INTERFACE: When accessing security, the Yes and No function ok, but should be reversed in order to show Yes first.
- INTERFACE: "Computer" status color sometimes (seen in on a couple of occasions, but not always) not reset to green even after repairs. System says it is functioning fine.
- GAMEPLAY: The message sent by a starbase when you deliver a ship or prisoners says "Thanks" instead of the original "Congratulations." And no "Keep up the good work, SHIPNAME!
- GAMEPLAY: When you have done so well on previous missions that you only need to succeed on your next mission to be promoted, you get the strangely structured message "You only need to success in your next mission."
- INTERFACE: When leaving starbase at full power, can the message be green instead of red? The psychology of the colors used for messages in the game might suggest using green for positive messages and red for invaders, damage, etc.
- GAMEPLAY: When laying down mines and ending up next to a starbase, it doesn't leave a mine at the sector where you were at before being taken inside starbase.
- GAMEPLAY: When a sabotage occurs, it gives the message "The intruder is probably a Krellan agent" before it gives the message "Intruder spotted on Deck X, Torpedos damaged for #.## days." wheich seems revered from what it should be.
- INTERFACE: "Manager" user is shown on the list of fleet personnel. Could you hide it, or change it to a high SF rank and name, like Grand Admiral Keeton.
- INTERFACE: I once saw a -99 (negative 99) in the Quadrant number.
- INTERFACE: When you are awarded the Hero of Alliance Gold Star with Meteors and Diamonds, the name runs off the screen and you can't read it all.
- GAMEPLAY: The message your ship receives that an enemy Battle Cruiser is present should be a "Message from Science Officer." I suggest that some of these important messages could be full voice instead of text only.
- GAMEPLAY: There's no longer any message from Science Officer that the Zaldron's invisibility shiled is off in sector X,Y.
III. Suggested Features
- SOUND: I liked the sounds from the original game for the shields raising (3 beep sequence. Although the new sound grew on me, keeping as many sounds as close to the original gives it more of an orignal flavor, ... for die-hard fans of the original.
- SOUND: I liked the original phaser charging and shooting sounds better, but the new ones ar OK, too, and not annoying.
- SOUND: Although the humor grew on me, I did not like the replacement sound for the fighting aboard a boarded ship. Too many monkey sounds. Maybe keep the new sound but I'd strongly suggest throwing in some phaser sounds for the attack, like those from the original game.
- SOUND: I think you should have voice sommands for some of the status reports. It would add a little more personailty to the game, especially if the user could choose from different sets of voices for the computer, science officer, starbase, engineer.
- ENEMY TACTICS: Have the enemy battlecruisers try to come up next to you and beam a landing party on board your ship. It could be a new way to lose your mission if they invade the command sector of your ship before you stop the boarding party.
- CAPTURING SHIPS: Use the SF2 style of ship schematic display while in the procdess of capturing a ship. Have a pre-defined command area that the ship defenders are positioned to protect. If you cature the enemy command area (or they capture yours!) the victor would gain control of the ship.
- INTERFACE: You can't tell how many aliens you've eliminated once started. An in-game kill report would be nice.
- INTERFACE: The function keys like F7 still works to start the torpedo process, like the original game, but you can't use keyboard input for the whole phasar targeting sequence. This was a big putoff at the beginning because I was so used to issuing multiple keyboard commands and having them buffered until the computer was ready to process them. In some cases, having mouse only support make the game longer to play because I have to wait for the graphics to display before clicking on them, instead of pressing the key sequence "F7-A-5-Enter" to automatically target and send off 5 torpedos.
- INTERFACE: User name is required to be in all caps. It would be nice to be able to use lowercase letters, too.
- INTERFACE: The squareness of the number-entry pad is visually contrasting to the soft curves used elsewhere in the game and make it look less futuristic.
- INTERFACE: After you repair an item, don't prompt the user to ask if they'd like to repair another system. That takes more clicks than just using the familiar list of systems in the right-hand side of the SF Deluxe screen.
- HUMOR: Add funny fighting sounds to the battles where the marines fight the space goulash.
- HUMOR: Add additional humorous message exchanges between the Krellans, starbase, etc..
- GRAPHICS: The mine graphic could be smaller in size, to visually emphasize it's smaller size ratio compared to a ship or starbase. Surely the krellans can see those massive icons and avoid them!
- GAMEPLAY: After a certain level, the player could unlock a new ship(s) to command with larger torpedo capacity and energy limits. Or another thing to find would be an upgrade to ship torpedos to make them do more damage. Or an upgraded tractor beam that allowed you to tow two ships in at once. Or just extra ships with unique names. How about after a certain level advancement, the player can add new ship that they get to name?
- INTERFACE: Krellan bases could be red instead of green to make it apparent that they are the enemy.
- SOUND: The sound for a system failing in an emergency could be the sound of an energy uinit powering down, instead of the newly added "breaking glass" sound which seems out-of-place.
- SHIPS: Several ships have been eliminated from the game, others had their name changed and a few have been added.
- Removed ships: Abraham Lincoln, Bonhomme Richard, Constitution, Duke of York, Jeanne d'Arc, Prince of Wales, and Royal Soverign
- Added ships: Kismet, Comet, Apollo, Dismantler, Procyon, Rigel
- Changed Names: Graf Zepplin was changed to Zepplin and is now out of alphabetical order in the ship list.
- Comments: I like the change of Graf Zepplin to Zepplin; although I feel the name change was just to make it fit in the ship listing, as was the removal of other ships with long names. I agree with removing the dated (in the game's time period) historical references. I think the "Constitution" should be added back in as it is something that should stand the test of time and be honored in the future and "Rigel" should be removed, since its more of a location than a ship. I don't really care for Procyon either. Procyon is the Alpha star of Canis Minor, the smaller dog. The Greek name means "before the dog," It's also a widely used commercial name and might be a reference to such. How about adding the "Stargazer" instead? A common enough name, and short enough for the game interface even if it does have a STNG reference as Picard's first command.
- GAMEPLAY: I strongly recommend you adjust the percentages needed to get medals, because its so easy to get a high ranking, players will end up getting no medal, or the highest level medal. Perhaps certain medals could only be awarded at higher levels.
- INTERFACE: The list of fleet personnel should be ordered by rank, so you could work your way up the list, providing an incentive and way to track your progress.
- GAMEPLAY: After a certain number of lost ships, perhaps a player should be truly killed, even though they are still listed on the fleet personnel as deceased. That way, you could encorage players to restart a new character, thus having more officers in the fleet and generate some nostalgia for former officers that were once under the player's command.
- LAUNCH BONUS: Take the bulletin board players and have a random lottery to let 10-20 fans submit their player names to you for include in the default Star Fleet personnel list when the game is released. That gives recognition to some of the people who waited for the game, and it populates the list of fleet personnel with a variety of officers, so you have some high-scores to beat and officers to surpass. You could randomize their levels to give a mix of ranks.
IV. Questions Regarding the Manual
- The manual says the maximum torpedoes is 35, but I’ve had up to 44.