Dnyarri Guide for Returnees Text

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Welcome Back to TradeWars

A tutorial by Aaron W Colman (Singularity/Dnyarri)

 
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Singularity's little "Welcome back to TradeWars" primer thing.
October, 2006 - By Singularity (Dnyarri)
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TradeWars 2002 has been around, in one form or another, since the 80s.
It's one of the oldest games that people still play. Very few new
players really come into the game, most people are just returning players
that played years ago and are curious if it's still fun.

It is.

But a lot has changed. The biggest changes happened around 2002, 2003
(ironically) when automated "scripts" began widespread use.

This is designed to be a little overview of current TW techniques and
script types. What to watch out for, and what you may want to start
doing.

Note - if you need a refresher on terminology I suggest:
http://tw-cabal.navhaz.com/glossary.html
That is a glossary of terms for TradeWars.

Anyway, the biggest change is automation, i.e.: scripts. Most of the
more mundane, redundant or complex tasks have been scripted. This tends
to give people with the latest tools the biggest advantage. It all
started when the old BBS door game began evolving into a telnet game.
TWGS, a front end telnet server for the DOS game, allows multiple people
to be on at once without the expense of added phone lines or modems.
Because of this, a sysop can afford to have you sit online for as long
as you want and since TWGS allows you to have up to 100 people on the
system at once, the only concerns are bandwidth and CPU (both being
fairly cheap) usage.

And so people these days tend to stay on for longer. Some people still
come on, run their turns, and log out. But serious players will stay
online 24/7. Running "keepalive" scripts that keep their connection to
the server from timing out. This means they can monitor in-game activity
or set alarms for certain conditions.

In essence people can now run certain scripts, even if they're not "at
keys." These go from simple alerts, alarms and monitoring scripts to
cashing scripts, automatic bots, and even full fledged attack and kill
scripts. And this is what a lot of returning players have a hard time
adjusting to.

So lets go thru each of these...

Alarms -
An alarm script is a very basic, passive approach to monitoring the game.
It listens for any given event and alerts the user. Anything can trigger
this, from someone hitting a fighter or a limpet, to someone warping
into the same sector you're in, to someone trying to attack you or take
a planet to even something as mundane as a new user in the game.

All of these of course have their purposes. If someone starts attacking
my fighters I know that they're moving around. They might even be coming
to invade. If I play a sound anytime someone hits one I have the
opportunity to come to keys and stop them, even if I'm in the other room
watching TV.

In tournament games this is one of my favorite uses of scripting. Unless
I'm out of the house, I'm going to hear the alarm and come to stop you.
This allows me to turn on other scripts or at least figure out what
you're doing and where you're going. It gives me a chance to actively try
to stop you.

This can be more passive though. You might not care about individual
fighter hits, but you probably do care about someone trying to invade
your base. If someone gets within, say, 2 hops of your base, you could
set an alarm to play and give you a better chance of defending your
assets.

Imagine a script that sees that someone is within 2 hops of your base,
twarps from where-ever you are and turns on a series of defense and
evacuation scripts. It's possible and it happens in tournament play all
the time.


Cashing -

Unlims...
Cashing scripts are most popular in "unlimited" move games. Unlimited
move games are games where you have an infinite number of turns.

Tip:
As a returning player I recommend against getting started in unlim
games. They have their place of course, but they teach you to be sloppy
with your resources and make it too easy to be reckless.

In unlimited move games people tend to combine gridding, exploring and
cashing. They run "world trade" or "world SSM" or "world SST" scripts
that take ships, move around the universe, find ports and cash at them.
If you try to get into an unlim without these you'll be easily overwhelmed
by those that do have them. A simple world PPT script can make 50m an
hour. A decent world SSM can make 100m, yes 100 million credits, in an
hour... and that's just for starters. World SST scripts regularly make
200m credits per hour (depending on the edit, but it's not unusual).

Naturally this kind of income changes the scope of a game. 200m credits
is enough to buy the best ship in the game and fill it with fighters,
then go out and start killing everyone you see. This is, usually, what
happens in an unlimited move game. They rarely last more than a few hours
and almost always finished within a day. If you get into an unlim that's
a few days old realize that you're going to be up against people that
are much more developed than you... and while it's not impossible to win,
it's very difficult to even get a decent game if the opposition is
serious about keeping you out.

Turn games...
In turn games cashing takes on a different role. You can't just run around
the universe, you have to plan all of your moves ahead of time.

Cashing starts with PPT of course. Paired port trading. Usually you head
out to some sector between 5 and 10 hops from your current location and
start scanning looking for 2 ports adjacent to each other with complementary
buy/sells. You then sell your load, buy another, go to the adj port and
repeat. At some point the port will run out, but then you just find another
one.

Modern helpers have made this process much easier. In the old days you had
to write these down on a piece of paper. Now they're all stored
automatically in a database, making it much easier to keep track of them.

PPT is such a common script to write that every helper available has a script
to automate it. Most can even automate the haggling process, giving you
better results by doing the port math behind the scenes... buying cheaper
and selling for more.

SSM, SST, SDT scripts exist too. CK's SST+jet and SDT are probably still
the most common. You'll notice that most scripts are referred to by what
they do and who wrote them, as in "CK's SST+Jet." Anyway, they all use
various steal techniques and are fairly turn efficient depending on the
situation.

Again, if you need help with the terminology go:
http://tw-cabal.navhaz.com/glossary.html

The problem with these scripts is that when you bust you have to move
elsewhere. You can have someone else run the same ports and "clear" your
bust... but that's time consuming and prone to human error.

Furbing. As a red you are going to bust. You need to keep your holds as
high as possible if you plan to make actual money, however. So... a furb
script is a script that is ran by a player with over 1000 alignment
(referred to as "blue") that automates the process of delivering ships
for you to "furb" with or one that comes and picks up your ship, refills
it at dock (or terra) and redelivers it. Naturally this takes a lot of
the repetition out of the process and makes the whole thing much less
prone to error.

Team cashing scripts exist too. Combine all of the above into one script
or set of scripts. You have a set of ports and run between them. When
you bust someone comes and refurbs your ship. Then another red trades
between a complementary set of ports with the goal of "clearing" your bust.

Note: Only 1 trader can be listed as "Busted" on a port. So if someone
else busts there you are now free to run that port again. They have
"cleared" your bust.

All of this makes a lot of money. 2 reds and 1 blue can make 40mil in
1k turns with "Team SDT." Infact, sometimes more, depending on the
settings and scripts. Obviously if you're a solo player in a game where
the competition is doing this... you are going to get profoundly outcashed.

Why is that important? Because cash buys ether probes and cash buys
fighters. So if you're sitting around waiting for your planets to build
figs while the other team is buying them faster then you will end up
getting your base found and won't have the resources to fend them off.
You will probably come back to the game to find that you're #Ship
Destroyed# and forced to start from scratch. Obviously that's what
we're trying to avoid here.

Planet negotiate scripts just lift from a planet and haggle with a
port to give you cash.

A buydown script simply lifts, buys full holds of a product, lands on
a planet and dumps the product on the planet. Repeat until the port is
empty of that product or you're out of turns. Most people do this with
ore and equipment. Equipment being sold off later for cash, ore being
used to move a planet and keep it's cannons strong.

Combine the above with megarobs in an MBBS game and you get a lot of
free product ready to be sold off. All you need to do is find the
right port and get it ready. It's not uncommon for a team to make 75m to
100m a day doing megarobs on a 1k turns game once everything is setup.
Clearly it doesn't take much of this to overwhelm less-prepared players.

Planet trading comes next. There are a few planet trading scripts out
there. Basically they look into a database of ports, find one, take a
mobile planet there and then sell to it. Repeat until everything is
sold off. This can be used if your planets are producing product from
colonists or can be used to sell off from megarobs.

If you're hitting only upgraded ports with a good "MCIC" then you'll
find this is usually the most turn efficient form of cashing there is.
It produces insane amounts of money.

See here: http://tw-cabal.navhaz.com/strategy/economy1.html for more
information on MCIC.

By now you should start getting some idea as to how much things have
changed. The basic game is still the same, but the automation has
reduced human error and made it easy for even the most basic of players
to run the most advanced techniques.


Bots -
Bots are automatic scripts that a player loads that allows another
player to make them do stuff. This can be anything, although usually
it's mundane tasks such as a buydown. Most bots also offer a "page"
feature that allows other users to page the person running the bot.

They typically use a 2 part authentication system. You send a "use"
request over private hail or subspace, then reply to a number the bot
gives you on the other. This logs you in and you can access the bot
by using it's "name" over subspace. Some bots can do more than basic
mundane tasks, for instance they can have you move product, run a
macro, lay mines, send a holoscan over subspace, or even load attack
and defense scripts.

The benefit to a bot is that even if you're not at keys your corpies
can make use of your bot. Sometimes to run your turns, other times
just to provide basic bot services like a saveme rescue. If you're
in a corp game it's probably a good idea to run one, if for no other
reason than one of your corpmates can warp you to safety if someone
comes knocking.


Mapping -
Mapping scripts are nothing new. They've been around for nearly 10
years now. But some people still fail to consider how powerful they are.
A ZTM, or zero turn map, is a script that uses course plots to determine
the shape of the universe. It can find dead ends, tunnels, whatever
you're looking for... with amazing accuracy all without spending a
single turn or credit. It can't tell you if there's a port there or
if there's enemy figs there, but it can tell how far away a sector
is and what sectors are next to it.

ZTM scripts these days store their information into a database. This
way any script that wants can look up which sectors are adjacent to
any given sector, whether you've explored it, and sometimes even if
you have a fig there. It can tell you if that sector you're planning
to build in is only a few hops from terra, or more appropriately...
you can run a search for certain sectors within certain distances
from terra and dock. This can be used to build a base... or used to
hunt for someone else's base.


Rescue scripts -
One of the advantages to having corpies online is that they can do
certain things if you get into trouble. "Saveme" is the most common
name for these scripts. A saveme script will either come and tow you
off or, more often, bring in a planet for you to land on. Rather than
getting hit with a photon and sitting there until they come kill you,
you can be picked up and saved by a corpie.

Of course playing solo makes this impossible... but you can start to
see how strong corp cooperation can make your team very tough to kill.
Conversely if your competition is doing this while you're not then
you're going to be in for an uphill battle.


Grid!!!
Grid is the biggest change. There have been telemate macros and Twar
scripts for years that can do some of the above. Maybe not to the
extent that it's done now, but... the form was there.

The biggest change is grid. Gridding is the act of dropping figs in
space. Why would you do this? Area of denial - That's area your enemy
can't be in. You can't build a base on top of someone's fig (well you
can, but you won't be able to colonize it).

Anytime someone runs into a fig you get a message about it:
Deployed Fighters Report Sector 1234: So and So's BigShip has entered sector.

It tells you the sector number. It tells you what ship they're in.
It tells you who it is. That's powerful stuff. If someone is switching
between a scout and a battleship you might want to wait till they're
in the scout before you try to kill them. You might not want to target
one person but only target another. You also get the most important
part... the sector number.

Remember earlier from "mapping" we also said you can store adjacent
sectors? Well combine this with grid defense scripts such as planet
drop or photon launching scripts and you have a powerful way to limit
people's movement.

If every time someone moves they risk losing their turns or getting
killed they are going to think twice before moving. This goes double
for solo players where nobody can save them if they get torped.

Grid offers a different perspective of the game than the old style
of play. When you grid it's because you don't want your "enemy" doing
things on your grid. You don't want them probing thru your figs, you
don't want them finding you as easily, you don't want them getting
close to your base, you don't want them messing with your stuff. They
are "the enemy" and you are out to kill them... or atleast keep them
from killing you.

There are several ways people defend their grid:

Ship drop - Drops a ship where you expect they'll be (or where they
are, if they're moving slowly enough). Once dropped on you can be held in
sector by an IG, by them dropping a lot of fighters or by them just
powering up and blasting you into a pod.

Planet drop - Drops a planet either on them, or in their path. You can
hold someone with a planet IG, you can blast them with a cannon, you
can lift and kill. Lots of options there too. Easy kill, just push a
few buttons and wait.

Photon missile (ptorp) - Photons take away someone's turns. Photons
have no delay, either, so you have to be pretty fast to avoid them.
Someone manually moving around the universe is a sitting duck for a
photon script. They can twarp or tpad (citadel transporter pad) next
to you, fire a torp and return back home with only minimal risk to
themselves. They can also use a planet, pwarp adjacent, fire the torp
and return home before you even have a chance to return fire (before
you even see the message that you've been hit by a photon, infact).

The point here is that you're now turnless. You can't hit any more
figs. If nobody can come rescue the poor torpee then odds are you're
going to get killed. Even if nobody kills you you're still turnless...
unable to trade or do anything until the hour. And even then what you
can do will be pretty limited as you won't have the turns to do much.
It really stinks getting torped with a full day of turns.

So, how do you avoid being a victim of this?
Well truth is, the war between gridders and grid defenders is an
ongoing one. It's one of my favorite areas of focus. A sophisticated
grid defender will still hit you at some point, but you can take
precautions to make getting hit that much more difficult.

Lawnmowing - Lawnmowers are scripts that hit figs very fast. You give
the script the sector you want to travel to and it computes the path
and automatically moves you there, faster than ewarp, killing any figs
it can in it's path. Lawnmowers move in a straight line, so they're
easy to predict, but since most people will be running "direct" torping
you can usually move faster than they can torp. Just be sure your end
sector is secure (don't mow to your base tho, you'll just give away
it's location) or they might be able to hit you on your last sector.

When in doubt, lawnmow. Yes it's beatable, but a person has to know
that you're going to be mowing around in order to catch you. You might
not be able to grid the universe this way but you definitely can get
from dock to a PPT port this way. Just be careful not to leave a trail
of fighters behind you... someone might come following along.

Twarp gridding - Twarp gridding is using a ship w/ twarp to twarp next
to an unfigged area, grid towards a point and then twarp out. It's
fairly easy to hit, but different patterns can make it tougher. It's
as fast as a lawnmow (and about as hard to hit as one, too) so it offers
some protection against torps and drops. Ship based torping methods will
be very challenged to hit a twarp gridder. Planet based methods (pwarp
torp, pdrop) make it a lot easier to hit, but obviously that requires the
time to develop mobile planets giving you more time to develop.

2 ship gridding - A few scripts exist for this. Because transporting from
your ship has no delay (moves do), you can get out of your ship before
they have a chance to torp you. Basically you hit a fig then xport out in
a macro. Then wait a little bit, xport back in and check stuff out. Of
course this might cost you the ship (and there's quite a bit more
complexity involved to make this safe), but if you know they're not paying
attention (like torping afk) then you've got a clear bill of health from
there on out.

Planet gridding - Usually this requires a corpie, but it's perhaps the
hardest to hit. The idea is that you call for a planet ahead of you, move,
kill the fig, then land all in a burst. As of this text Rammar has a
public planet gridder available on grimytrader.com. Planet gridding is
very tough to hit... requires a very fast script and a very fast ping to
hit.

Hit-retreat - You hit the fig and retreat in a burst. This is very tough
to hit and a good way to test who's torping. If you do get torped it's
usually after you've sent the retreat command, putting you back 1 sector
from the hit sector. That gives you a extra few seconds to get a rescue.

Have a rescue plan - Is someone running saveme? What happens if you do
get torped, how are you going to handle it?

Twarp everywhere - If you have a fig there, use twarp. Twarp is a whole
lot safer and more turn efficient. This is perhaps one of the biggest
advantages to having a grid... you can twarp where you want to go instead
of having to burn turns warping around.

Turn management - Preplan your moves. Instead of randomly gridding, trade
down your turns to a smaller percentage of your overall turns (like afew
hundred) first. Grid with those. Now if you get torped you don't lose your
whole day. If you have a corpie... then they can come pick you up. Cost?
Very little. Risk? Very little. Potential for gain? Quite a bit. It's
always a good idea to grid the last bunch of your turns when you can.

Test beforehand - If you're not sure if someone is torping, hit a few figs
in the safest way you can then check the logs and see if anyone fired. At
least this way you know who your competition is.

And that's the basic overview of today's gridding techniques. Some things
will inevitably change. Gridding is the most competitive part of the game
so expect things to evolve. But with just a lawnmower and a little thought
you can survive long enough to make an impact even against the most
aggressive grid defenders.


This brings us to the "attitudes" in play. In the olden days most people
would let new players do their own thing, and just focus on the big enemy
corp when necessary. I've been in games where, despite a lot of activity...
nobody ever tried to kill each other. Well that's different now. Today it's
hard to find a game where people don't want you #SD#. Not because they have
anything against you, but because they either want "the kill" or they just
don't you mucking up their grid. Well this isn't entirely true, there are
BBSes out there today that play slower games still... but on a growing
number of servers you'll find things are speeding up.

This is different than a lot of other games. In most games you have an
environment to play against. These could be AI-generated players, quests,
things to do and other non-players to fight. In TradeWars you used to have
aliens that fit this role, and while you still do... aliens themselves have
not kept up with the advancements in the game. The AI is still relatively
weak. This means that most games are "PvP" or "Player versus player" rather
than building, alien killing, "player versus environment" games. Keep in
mind that in many games your biggest challenge will be the other players.

If you're a newly minted returnee you might want to focus on slower games
with fewer players. Give yourself a chance to get re-familiar with the menus
and the concepts before throwing yourself into the fray. Look at the logs
and the scores and see if they have any big corps, if they're all blue or red
or mixed, if there's much activity, etc. Look at the "V" (hit V from the
command prompt) and see how many fighters, mines and citadels are in the game.
As you get started see what the enemy grids are like. If there's a lot of figs
out there then the game is probably on "lockdown" and you're going to be more
actively hunted than in a game where there isn't very many deployed figs.

Tournament games are a different breed of game all together. Some people
hate them. They definitely bring out the most aggressively competitive
spirit. I routinely develop new scripts and methods for tourney games,
while I often just log out from less active games. If you're going to be
on a developed corp with experienced players this can be a great way to get
into the latest and greatest stuff. If you're trying to go solo... well, then
it's not going to be all that fun of a game for you. Odds are you will be
aggressively hunted for doing nothing more than logging in. Unless you're
prepared for that level of competition you might want to wait a bit. Choose
your games with a little discretion and you'll get more play time... and
inevitably a chance to become a better player.


Today (2006) you can find scripts here:
http://www.grimytrader.com
http://www.navhaz.com

This list will change over time, no site stays up forever. So if you're
reading this a few years after I've written it then you might want to ask
around and find what the newest, hottest script sites are.

The best scripts are generally private. Why? Well, public scripts take a
lot of time to write and debug. Most of the best scripts are written under
highly competitive circumstances, and also have a lot of little bugs in them.
Private scripts should usually not be passed around. If you get a copy of
one, keep it to yourself.

If you want the latest, greatest, private stuff then you need to corp with
script writers. People used to establish long term "only corp with these
guys" type corps called "permacorps." Permas are pretty much dead these days
and you won't see many of them around. Those few that do "exist" do so in
name only. That's where most private stuff came from, one or 2 of the perma
members would be script writers and the rest would contribute their
experience and ideas to future developments.

If you want access to this level of scripting then you need to become a
regular corp member of a scripter's team. That's generally the only
regular way. Over time you'll become part of their in-game debugging team...
meaning you'll have access to pretty much whatever you need (even though it
might get you killed).

Of course you can always write your own. In theory you can script in any
language you want. If you want to write your own helper you can write a script
in anything. But most people don't want to go to those extremes.

People these days use Zoc, Swath, Attac and TWX proxy.

Those are "helpers" in one sense or another. Although TWX proxy is not really
a helper in strictest sense, it's a proxy that sits between a helper (or term
program) and the server. It provides a database (automatically saves things
it sees) and a scripting engine.

Swath, available at http://swath.net/ is a helper you can buy. It's demoware,
meaning there's a version for free that offers some functionality. It's
primary language is Java, meaning that if you can write java then you can
code in it.

Attac uses Rexx scripting. Rexx is the language supported by Zoc, too.
Rexx scripts are very flexible and have been around for a long time.

Zoc is a term program. It's similar to any kind of term program, but people
in the TW world like it because of it's rexx support and it's macro
capabilities. Still, there's no reason why you couldn't use secureCRT or
any other term program you like.

TWX proxy is the most popular scripting engine today. TWX proxy was written
by Xide several years ago. It was released requiring a registration,
however about a year and a half ago Xide retired from the game and made
it freeware. ElderProphet took over the project after that and maintains it
today.

You can get TWX proxy 2.03 from: http://twxproxy.com/

The newest version is 2.04 (although there are several side versions, like
2.11, that have been developed by other authors) is available at
http://www.grimytrader.com/
http://www.navhaz.com


TWX proxy scripting is very easy compared to most programming languages. It's
designed specifically for TW, meaning that it's constructs fit the game very
well.


Lastly... finding corpies.
Corpies are where the game gets real. Solo play can be fun, but the best
advancements happen when you're with a good corp. The easiest way to find
corpies is to interact with other players. Talk on fedcom, introduce yourself,
talk on the forums, etc. This will give you a chance to meet people and
maybe request some help on a game.

As you get a little further along you'll find that most people in the
community are available via IM. ICQ seems to be the most popular, with
Yahoo coming up a 2nd. Swap IM info with as many people as you can... then
if you need help, ask.

Over time you'll find that you corp better with some people than others and
that play is just "more natural" with some corpies. And that's how "corps"
these days are formed. Most people go into a game with their corp already
selected. We know who's who, who does what, their strengths and weaknesses.
This gives us a huge advantage over those that haven't worked all of that
out yet. Find a corp.


Well...
I hope this helps. At least provides some perspective on the way things
are done today. The rest is up to you. Find what you need and make things
work. Don't be afraid to test stuff out, it might get you killed... or
it might keep you safe. You'll never know if you don't try.
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