Learning and Culture
Starting from the http://www.netrek.org site, I thought I should read-up on the basic gameplay and cultural issues for Internet Netrek games (watch out, there are some subtle things considered “bad form”). The game play is rather more complex than I had imagined, and the controls are understandably idosyncratic, but I guess I can learn it as I go along… There is a lot to read about the gameplay and team tactics before even starting, and a moderate amount of Netrek-specific “lingo” to learn – judging from the way the guides are written, clueless unacculturated newbies are not generally welcome.
Software Variations on a Theme
Hmmm… this Netrek lark isn’t quite as straightforward as I had anticipated, there are several modified game-server engines, and standard-protocol and protocol-enhanced clients…
- Bronco – standard Netrek game (original team gameplay and rules)
- INL – stands for “International Netrek League”. It’s basically Bronco, but with team captains who can choose a scoring system and time limits. It’s used for clue games, team versus the world, and league games.
- Base Practice – used to learn how to be a good starbase pilot. No rank is needed to get a base, and special robots mass-attack (“ogg”) the practice bases.
- Sturgeon – explores several possible alterations to the game. Ships can use kills to purchase weapon upgrades. The powerful Galaxy Class (GA) ship is available.
- Netrek Hockey – a cross between Netrek and, you guessed it, Ice Hockey. The planets are laid out to form a rectangular hockey-style rink, including goals. Ships use tractors and pressors to shove a puck around, fighting with phasers and torpedos as needed to get enemies out of the way.
- Chaos – includes various modifications designed to make the game chaotic. Typically, this will include Galaxy Class ships (GA’s), a galaxy which wraps around, and 3 on 3 Team-Mode.
- Paradise – involves extensions to the game system, so you need a Paradise client in order to play it; the usual clients won’t do. There is no Paradise client for Windows. Paradise has planets that move, suns, asteroid fields, eight additional ship types, missiles, and more.
There are also several different UNIX ports of the “standard” client software available: COW, BRM, BRMH, xNetrekM; and two variations on the “Paradise” extended-gameplay client software: TedTurner and Paradise 2000. Some of these vary in a few dimensions (stereo versus mono versus no sound, 256-color pixmap support, and so on and so on).
Fortunately, the situation isn’t anything like as bad as the multitude of completely incompatible (enhanced – NOT!) DOOM engines/clients. It looks like there are only two variations on the network protocol and client compatibility – “plain” and “Paradise”. So i’ll be going “plain”, of course – not going to mess with any new-fangled 15-year-old gameplay enhancement!
Download a Prebuilt Binary?
From the http://www.netrek.org nexus, there are links to the various client softwares for Windows 9x/2000/XP/Vista/etc, MacOS X, MacOS 9, Linux, OpenBSD (x86 and SPARC), FreeBSD, AIX, generic UNIX, and several others, both source and binaries. There is even a pre-built binary for SPARC/Solaris 2.6 – hey bingo, let’s give that a try!
Unfortunately, that prebuilt binary is for Solaris 2.6 with added self-compiled X.org software pre-installed (it is linked against libX11.so.6, not the stock Solaris 2.6 libX11.so.4). Thanks for nothing, chaps!
Why do that, when downloading the “COW” source tarball and running
./configure && make
builds a perfect fully working netrek client linked against stock Solaris 2.6 libs, with both the GNU C compiler or the Sun C Compiler? Sheesh…
Do it the Easy Way – Build From Source!
So I did the latter, and Hey Presto! a fully working netrek client executable for stock Solaris – it was the easiest install-from-source I have done in many a year (I could rant on and on about the SETI@home client’s totally farked autoconfiguration system, but… I suppose this is not the place…).
Where’s the Ejector Seat?
Unless otherwise directed, the netrek client inituially attaches to a couple of game meta-servers to discover which Internet games are currently active or waiting for players. So when I launched netrek the first time I was presented with a list of four (non-Paradise) games to join, and happily selected the one at the top… cut scene to the standard four-panel netrek screen and 20 seconds later the software reported that I had been ghostbusted
which means that the server has decided that you are gone, and frees up your player slot. If this happens, your client will try to recover; if it can’t, then the only thing to do is quit out and start up again. If you see a player get killed and not come back, but their slot is still up on the playerlist, they may be in the process of being ghostbusted.
However, I suspect that my 20 seconds of 99.9% inactivity had resulted in me being forcibly ejected from the game as a clueless newbie…