Across a Sea of Stars: Neptune’s Pride Game Diary #2

Neptune's Pride featured image

When I left you the Galactic Peace Organisation had just been formed, coalescing around five players. I have to admit to being a little excited about the whole affair but I was yet to be convinced that it would hold. To this end I continued fortifying my borders with Blueshift2k5 (dark green) and Captain Wells (light blue).

Happily, there were no further spats with Blueshift2k5 throughout days four through six, and Captain Wells remained true to his word. He even allowed me to colonise Antares unimpeded, despite having had designs on it himself. In return I swore off approaching Dubhe, a nearby star of lesser value but which Wells wanted:

“I was rather hoping that I might be permitted one system that was at the edge of the galaxy… and ships en route. It is not abundant with resources, but I was hoping to establish a scientific community there…”

Who was I to argue with that? The hard-shelled people of CitiesInDust responded in kind:

“Admiration due unto bold scientists of research station Dubhe. They are saluted.”

There were many conversations along such lines as the game continued. There was, after all, the GPO to be fleshed out, and the problem of the non-signatories to be addressed. Plus, there were all of the inevitable accidents that would happen as we continued to grab unclaimed stars. Neptune’s Pride allows you to queue multiple waypoints for your fleets, resulting in everyone weaving rather tangled webs of colonization and having to apologise afterwards. Here is one of the earliest GPO conversations, which features myself and Blueshift2k5 quibbling over a couple of adjacent stars (I mentioned one of them, Rasalas, last week):

GPO Chat 1

GPO Chat 2

GPO Chat 3

GPO Chat 4

There you have LiberalEurope playing peacemaker (still cynically, no doubt, as revealed in his post last Tuesday), me roleplaying my simple-minded turtles and trying to convince Blueshift2k5 that he should let me have Rasalas back if I give him the less-valuable Warg (the extra resources of Rasalas were nice but I actually really did want it to be able to get at Sirron), and finally a bunch of us breaking character to actually explain what the hell was going on.

You can see me being a rube at the end there, coming right out and saying what my actual plan is. That sort of thing will get you killed or at best manipulated in Neptune’s Pride. Of course, at the time it’s likely that no one believed a damn word I was saying.

These were fairly quiet times in my neck of the galaxy. Things got slightly more interesting around day seven because I upgraded my range technology, and I could at last colonise a star to my south – Regor. It was outside my scanning range at the time so I had no idea how valuable it was, but even if it was worthless it could serve as a stepping stone to other stars in the area.

Sadly, as I launched my fleet towards Regor, I saw several other stars in the area turn dark green. Bugger. Blueshift2k5 had beaten me there – evidently equally desperate to colonise new territory. But at least he could actually attack dark-red Sirron without using a stepping-stone like Rasalas!

In the end I got Regor and he got everything else:

Regor & Talitha

As I said, quiet times in galactic south. Elsewhere, though, things were heating up. It became clear that yellow LiberalEurope’s fictional northern alliance existed in part: the light-red RoboCaptain and the purple Leo2k5 were merrily carving up light-green Grand Space Lord Al, who unfortunately was proving to have the least appropriate name of all of us.

The GPO was moving very slowly indeed – a bit like the real UN tends to, eh! POLITICAL SATIRE ALERT. Things were slightly confused by Sirron signing up to the GPO several days after the rest of us did, and Grand Space Lord Al never actually signing up despite LiberalEurope including him among its members.

In retrospect I guess that LiberalEurope used GSL Al as justification for the existence of his ‘northern alliance’, and that Sirron found out about the GPO via the Electron Dance comment thread and post and signed up anyway. That presumably spoiled LiberalEurope’s initial plan a little, but at this point in the game itself I was fully trusting of the GPO and was mostly annoyed that every player I could actually reach was now a GPO member. No spacewar for me!

Around this time, though, conversations were spreading among all nine players, with LiberalEurope using the GPO as an enormous stick with which to beat RoboCaptain and Leo2k5. I’m not sure now whether he was trying to to provoke them into actively standing against the rest of us so that he and Captain Wells (their immediate neighbours) could carve them up, or if by this point he was actually impressed that he had managed to cohere such a large alliance that was not squabbling (much) and was handling things in a peaceful, diplomatic manner, and was actually trying to unify the entire galaxy.

Still, RoboCaptain and Leo2k5 weren’t playing ball. The latter seemed more receptive, but was cautious and distrusting. RoboCaptain appeared a lot more cavalier.

It was around this time – day 8 or 9 in game terms – that the roleplay kicked into overdrive. After a few days of prevaricating RoboCaptain revealed that Grand Space Lord Al was harbouring an intergalactic war criminal known as Doctor Terror (not the most subtle of monikers for a criminal mastermind to adopt, but okay) and this was the reason for his assault. LiberalEurope made the discovery that Terror intended to reach the far-flung “devil planet” Jabbah and there recite the nine billion names of the Sleeping God H’Lug’hr.

Yep, we are segueing easily at this point between Buck Rogers and H.P. Lovecraft. It was turning into that kind of game.

Concurrently, an ‘intergalactic highway’ was being created. It was a fairly simple concept. Neptune’s Pride has a lot of ‘trash’ planets – they have next to no resources and are almost worthless. You can upgrade them to produce money, ships or research, but it’s very expensive and thus barely worth the effort. However, because they rarely have any industry they don’t tend to have any ships garrisoned there, which means they can exchange hands between players with no loss of life (okay, okay, “no loss of tiny little numbers representing spaceships”). This means that they can be used, upon agreement, for players to ‘hop’ their way through the territory of another player to get somewhere else.

This existed for two reasons. The first was grand, with the best objectives of the GPO at heart. An interstellar highway would ‘facilitate trade and peaceful co-existence throughout the galaxy’. The second was pragmatic. It would allow GPO members to attack non-members by sending fleets through allied territory. Range limitations are quite severe in Neptune’s Pride, so it’s hard to bypass another empire entirely.

Captain Wells, even at this point the most powerful player, albeit by just a few stars and several hundred ships, gave up a few trash stars to allow me to send fleets towards Leo2k5, who was merrily gobbling up more of Grand Space Lord Al’s space. So it was that Peacekeeping Expeditionary and Peacekeeping Ultra were despatched, fleets of 25 and 75 ships respectively. These numbers are small, sure, but at this point no one had more than about 6-700 ships, and my plan was to nibble at weaker stars. I had to use the bulk of my forces to dissuade predation on my homeworlds, after all.

Note my delicate use of the language of liberal imperialism: “peacekeeping”. We are here for your own good, hairy purple space whale things. Your ruler is a bad person because he is invading and occupying and decimating the fighting sons and daughters of another empire, whereas we, invading and occupying and decimating your fighting sons and daughters, are good people who are here to stop all of that. Tut. Videogames do bring out such terrible things in us.

Here’s a screenshot of my peacekeeping fleets nestled at Alsciaukat. You can see where we’ve used Nihal, one of Captain Wells’ worlds, to reach it. You can also see RoboCaptain losing it a bit. The role-playing was still coming thick and fast, and he’d just revealed that his empire of machines had fallen under the sway of that Doctor Terror bloke.

Blessed are the Peacekeepers

I was never too into the mythos of Doctor Terror – I like my space opera grandiose and po-faced, thank you very much! – but it was hard to deny that this Harry Harrison-esque nonsense was pretty fucking funny.

This was the height of the game’s role-playing and the height of the efficacy of the GPO. Which is to say, the GPO was never very effective at its publicly stated goal – quite like the UN. POLITICAL SATIRE ALERT. Although I was now quite seriously role-playing as a peaceable species of space-turtles, whose attacks against Leo2k5’s purple stars were intended as a punitive measure to stop the xenocide of light-green Grand Space Lord Al, others were taking it less seriously. I went so far with the peacekeeping motif as to hand Scheat Omega back to Leo2k5 after capturing it (you can see it in the screenshot above – it’s south of Alsciaukat, visible beneath the chat window).

Blueshift2k5 continued to mass ships at my borders, as did I in response – I had no intention of attacking him but I was wary nonetheless. He never took up an offer to use my trash stars and those of Wells to reach the action, but was evidently frustrated at being so far away from all of the action.

My notes at the time stated: “Dark green is massing large forces on my borders. I’m very concerned about this, but if he does strike at me then I can call upon the alliance to turn against him. Dark red is firmly within the GPO now and could strike at dark green. Of course, dark green shares just two borders – with myself and dark red – and could strike at both of us simultaneously, with the rump of his empire not requiring a strong line of defence. So it’s a potential threat.”

I had little idea what was going on to the north, but I think Sirron (dark red) and LiberalEurope (yellow) were fighting Sargent Hatred (orange) and RoboCaptain (red), and Captain Wells (light blue) was also fighting RoboCaptain. Grand Space Lord Al (light green) was almost wiped out. Here’s a screenshot circa day 10 which shows all of us and the territory we held:

Territory map

Here’s a screenshot of GSL Al’s last holdout and the uncolonised devil world Jabbah.

The Devil World

All this, and the best was still yet to come…

[This is part two of an ongoing series about a match of Neptune’s Pride played by fans of Rock, Paper, Shotgun and Electron Dance. The game is now concluded. The follow-ups to this post will appear on Mondays throughout February 2012. Part 1 can be found here.

UPDATE: LiberalEurope’s second post in his joint series is up now, and it makes for fascinating reading indeed.]