Saturday, September 11, 2010

Starflight: Closer to the Main Quest

Wikipedia lists 23 people with the surname Layton. I'd like to think he was named after Turner Layton (1894-1978) who wrote the sublime jazz standards "After You've Gone" and "If I Could Be with You."

The lesson is: don't assume that just because someone only says a limited number of things on your first encounter, that's all they have to say.

Tonight, after screwing around the galaxy and wasting fuel for a couple of hours, I managed to run into the same "Noah 9" Mechans from the previous night. I spoke to them again, and they gave me all kinds of information that they didn't give me the first time. In fact, I had to speak to them four times before I finally seemed to have milked them for all their data. For all their promises that their databanks were open to me, they were awfully quick to terminate our conversations.

It would take a lot of space to write down everything I learned in subsequent visits, but these are the highlights:

  • The Gazurtoid--the bible-thumping, "many-tentacled aquatic creatures" I already encountered--live in "tremendous colony ships." They are enemies of the Uhlex (whom I have not encountered, I don't think), and both of them were enemies of the Old Empire (Earth). The Uhlex have particularly powerful weapons.
  • The Mechans believe the Old Empire's other enemies, the Numlox and the Phlegmak, were destroyed during the war. The Phlegmak had powerful bombs shaped like black eggs that destroyed many of the Old Empire's planets. (Anything to do with the Veloxi's "prophecy of the Egg?")
  • The Old Empire allied with a particularly cowardly race called the Spemin. When the Old Empire first encountered them, they were in a pre-technological state, but the Old Empire helped boost their level. A fascist-sounding movement called the Secret Society for Spemin Superiority (SSSS) gained power and attacked the Old Empire with its own technology. When the Numlox and Phlegmak attacked, the Spemin begged the Old Empire for protection, which was granted, but they turned on the Empire again after the war was over. I'm guessing the Spemin are the egotistical slimes I wrote about at the end of my last posting.
  • All those places on planets where I've been finding Endurium are ruins of the Ancients, not the Old Empire. Ancients ruins are usually found in Class M star systems.
  • The Velox (the insectoids) were the first race the Old Empire encountered, and the Old Empire took much of technology from them. They are arrogant and isolationist.
  • The Laytonites were a faction of the Old Empire, apparently led by someone named Layton, that believed the Empire was evil and should die. They were the ones that sabotaged Project Noah.
  • The first Project Noah mission failed because a failure in a "ring device" made it impossible for the navigators to identify "continuum fluxes." I think continuum fluxes are the little wormholes that send you flying across the galaxy, saving time and fuel. I don't seem to have any problem finding them despite not having a "ring device."
  • An Earth organization called the Institute--the ones alternately responsible for Project Noah--studied the Ancients. Two common beliefs were that the Ancients had originally seeded the universe with life and that they would one day return to judge mankind. The Ancients may have built a device called the "Crystal Planet." Don't know what that is yet. There might be some Ancients still living in Spemin space.
  • There is a "Dead Zone," identified by the Institute, of flared stares progressing from the "coreward" (right) side of the galaxy towards the center. I have verified this through my explorations, noting that all the stars to the right of a certain point say "post-flare," those in the middle are about to flare, those slightly more to the left are "unstable," and the ones on the far left are fine. This would suggest that Arth has a limited time to live until I can figure out the cause. Notes in the Operations Room at Starport confirm this. I suspect this, then, is the main quest, and since the destruction of stars is progressing, it would seem I have a limited time to complete it.

My Mechan conversations gave me a ton of clues for exploration. Some of them were specific coordinates and planets (including direct coordinates for a station on Earth) and some were hints, like a fabled city of the ancients somewhere in a nebula near Spemin space.

One of the clues led me to a nearby star in which there were supposed to be some ruins on one of the planets. As I approached, I was challenged by a probe that shot a series of numbers at me and asked me to answer "yes" or "no." I tried to discern a pattern in the numbers, but I only got through three before I apparently answered wrong and the probe attacked me.

Does it have something to do with Rolling Rock?

I destroyed it fairly easily, landed on the planet, visited the coordinates, and damned if I didn't find a "black egg" artifact. Does this mean I now have the ability to destroy a planet? If so, I need to find where the evangelical octopuses call home.



The Earth coordinates looked to be in the Arizona area. (Incidentally, the coordinates I was given, 12N, 104W, doesn't correspond with actual latitude and longitude on Earth, which would be in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico.) Landing, I found a ruin where messages told me of the last days of Earth before the solar flare and the location of another base in a nearby system. There was also an artifact called a "hypercube."

150 degrees...Arizona...sounds about normal.

On Mars (which mysteriously has water), at the "Center of the North Pole" (which only makes sense if navigation is based on a Mercator map), I found the Institute's "Starflight Navigational Research Station" and a "ring device" artifact. If my conversation with the Mechans is to be believed, this should help me find fluxes. I'm curious what it will do that I'm not already doing.

I knew one of the two nearby stars was Mardan because I had clues about Mardan-2 and Mardan-4. One of the systems only had three planets, so by process of elimination I visited the other. On Mardan-2, I got just a bunch of cryptic messages about a lack of resources. On Mardan-4, I found (as was promised by the Mechans), a mining bonanza, including lots of Ancients ruins with fuel. I filled my hold and returned to Starport.

Most of the artifacts I found were worthless as usual. The ring device, the analysts confirmed, would help me find fluxes. The analysis of the hypercube seems to be screwing with me: is it a Rubik's Cube? If so, it's worth 15,000 MUs. I think I'll keep it just in case it does something important.

Definition of "easy victory": giving a Rubik's cube to a color-blind person.

Back out into space. "The richest and strongest planet of the Old Empire," the Mechans told me, "was New Scotland, the second planet in the upspin end of the Staff Constellation." One theory is that I have to find a clue as to where the "Staff Constellation" is somewhere else. But I noted that Earth was described as being in the "Pythagoras Constellation" which, true to its name, featured three stars in the shape of a right triangle. Does that mean I need to be looking for stars in the shape of a staff? If so, there are a lot of possibilities.

I think I'll try heading into Spemin Space next and see if I can abuse some intelligence out of the treacherous bastards and perhaps find this fabled Ancient colony in the midst of a nebula. Does this game ever stop being fun?

16 comments:

  1. Haha, no it doesn't stop being fun!

    Re: The Staff Constellation, I don't remember anyone in the game telling me where it was, but if I recall, it's three stars in a straight line. Once again, don't bet on my memory, I wouldn't, but it may be the three stars at 87,40 - or - 97,80 - or - 180,120. Of those three, the last one, 180,120, sticks out the most in my mind.

    And yeah, you are on a time limit, so make a backup and keep it safe!

    I'm currently playing through Starflight II, which is awesome. It's basically the same engine, but with a barter system [so you can trade with the different aliens if you land on their home planets and find a trading post] in a new sector of space [with a friggin huge nebula dominating the map], and VGA support.

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  2. Oh, and yes, Continuum Fluxes are indeed those wormholes. And now that I've though about it, if you imagine that Earth was the center of the Old Empire, then the three stars at 180,120 are the most likely candidates for being The Staff since it's both nearby and not in anyone else's territory.

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  3. Yeah, this game never stops being fun, even after getting into an encounter and getting blown away before I can raise my shields or escape. Seriously, if it was just one keypress to raise shields I could probably react in time, but instead you have to cancel out of navigation mode, move down a few options, then arm weapons and raise shields. You can't evade while you're messing with the menus, so I'm usually brown bread by the time I get the cursor down there. They designed this game for PCs, right? So why didn't they give a one-key command for this stuff? (If they did, and I just missed it, please let me know. I've lost two good ships with all hands just in the past few hours.)

    I LOVE the exploration aspect of this game. I think it's the closest thing to Star Trek that I've ever played, including the actual Star Trek games. Hopefully the sequel ironed out some of the flaws in the combat system, because I'm sick of my exploration coming to an end in the blink of an eye.

    Speaking of exploration, ever been all the way to 249,0? It's worth the ride!

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  4. You can raise your shields before and during conversation if you wish, but the other guys might take offense.

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  5. This game never stops being fun. Even when being blown to pieces. The danger with exploration was part of the attraction, imo. You just never knew what was going to happen next when you encountered a new race.

    If you liked this game you'll absolutely love Starflight 2. They enhanced the game even more with trade ports.

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  6. You'll also love Star Control 2. Highly recommended.

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  7. I agree on the Star Control 2 (it's Ur-Quan Masters now) sentiment. I've never played Starflight but it sounds like SC2 borrowed HEAVILY from it, if not outright stealing! It really is one of the all-time great games.

    FWIW - the fun and enthusiasm really comes through in your writing. I'm excited for you and look forward to the updates.

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  8. As much as I like Star Control 2, I could do without the planetary action scenes that pass for mineral/lifeform collection. I'd rather, like in Starflight, explore the planet and look for ruins, minerals, etc. But everything else is great.

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  9. 150 degrees Fahrenheit might be unusually hot for Arizona, but this is 150 degrees Celsius, which is 302 degrees Fahrenheit. (Of course, you probably knew that when you made the joke. It's so hard to tell when somebody's joking on the internet)

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  10. Karnov, you nailed it. I'm proud to say I figured it out independently, but thanks for commenting.

    Kalinova, I found a planet with lots of Endurium and an artifact called a "complex machine." Is this what you meant or did you discover something else? Either way, thanks for the tip.

    Anon, to be honest, I didn't even notice it was Celsius. Thanks for the correction. I still could have made an accurate joke out of it. I don't know how anyone lives in Arizona.

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  11. Yeah, it's just endurium and artifacts, but it's a LOT of endurium...

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  12. Whether Ur-Quan Masters or Star Control II, MobyGames--which is pretty liberal in its definition of a "CRPG"--doesn't include it on the RPG list. Can anyone defend its RPG creds enough to give me a reason to put it on my list?

    I won Starflight last night--posting to follow tonight. Kalinova, if you're planning to play to the end, you WILL NOT want to read tonight's summary.

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  13. SO glad your enjoying this one as much as I did!

    RE: Star Control II (or whatever it goes by these days)
    IT isn't a true crpg, it has crpg elements. A good plot/story that keeps you wanting to unravel the mystery, You upgrade your starship and as the game progresses you amass a small fleet of ships that you can choose to use in battle, in fact there is a bit of a strategy element in choosing which ships are best in a specific engagement they are all (the ships) different and unique and each has a special power, but no character advancement that I recall... In fact it feels very much like the Starflight series, but combat is a much better (if arcade like) experience. it's almost a bit of a Genre twister.. but in the long haul it's such an excellent and classic game, it really should get a spot on your playlist.

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  14. Layton and the laytonite's sabotage of the Noah ship made me think of the old (1934) Jack Williamson story "Born of the Sun" where the sun is a Cosmic Egg about to burst. (Hmm...wonder if _that_ is what the star bursts in Starflight are? If so is the Crystal Planet the mother planet?).
    Anyway, in the story mankind's last hope is to build a large generation ship with some of Earth's population and head for another other stars, but the ship is sabotages by the religious fanatics of The Cult of the Great Egg, led by La'o Ku. I wonder how much this story influenced Starflight?

    Thanks to your blog I discovered this gem of a game. Currently exploring the Pythogarus constellation, and still looking for New Scotland and The Institute ("The Foundation"?), but I've found the elipsoid stolen by the space rogue Harrison (heh, blatant nod to Star Wars there).

    I'm using the 1989 Amiga version with improved graphics and sound, and with mouse support.

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  15. I don't know why but this game reminds me of Mass Effect franchise immediately. But ME bores many of the "modern RPG disease" (which means you basically follow the journal, go here and pick that then return for your reward) so I was not really into it. I did complete the trilogy though.

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  16. It is funny since every star have an end in real life, the sun has some million years still going for it though. Also there is nothing strange about Mars having water because scientists alredy know that there are polar caps in Mars, wich the scientists believe can be molten to both turn into water AND create an atmosphere.

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