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News: Celebrating 30 years of Star Control 2 - The Ur-Quan Masters

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1  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Ultimate Cyborg Tournament on: April 30, 2011, 01:46:20 pm
Apparently I have too much time on my hands, because I have completed the First Round of the Ultimate Cyborg Tournament!

For some reason I cannot fathom, I am obsessed with watching the Cyborg AIs kill each other in SuperMelee.

A word or two about balance. I want the tourneys to be fair, insomuch as they can be, and I've already started to notice some problems with the ship values.  For instance, I think the Ilwrath are undervalued, while the Mycon appear to be overvalued.

THE FIRST ROUND

The first round of the tournament was a double-elimination, seeded tournament with each team consisting of ships from one race.  In the interest of not prolonging the suspense, the Shofixti won.  For this competition, I followed the following format.

1.) Both players would be set to "Awesome Cyborg."

2.) Fleet totals had to be roughly equal.  To accomplish this, of course, the fleets were different sizes.  For example, if the battle were Chmmr vs. Ur-Quan Kzer-Za, they would both have 14 ships.  Unfortunately, that battle never happened in this tournament.  Totals were adjusted slightly so the value total of the fleets were within 5 units.

3.) Losing teams dropped to the Lower Bracket.

4.) Seed was based on ship value, and the bracket was organized thanks to this website I found that makes brackets.  There's a website for everything these days.  I'm not advertising or anything, but if for some bizarre reason you need a very specialized tourney bracket for anything, search for it on google and in the first few results will be the bracket on printyourbracket.com.  I typed in "25 team seeded double elimination bracket" and it took me here.

Here are the results. (jpg image)

Some surprising upsets:

Zoq-Fot-Pik vs Pkunk.  Not really that surprising, but I didn't expect the ZFP to make it out of the first round of either bracket.  But they beat the Pkunk (another undervalued ship) and went on to...

Zoq-Fot-Pik vs Mycon. ...beating the Mycon.  Again, not as surprising as some that follow, but a good show.  The ZFP would then go on to be mercilessly slaughtered by one Chmmr Avatar (seriously, it was just sad), then blown away by the Shofixti.

Umgah vs. Mmrnmhrm. This one is mostly because the computer does not use the Mmrnmhrm well at all.

Umgah vs. Utwig. Despite being vastly outclassed by the Jugger, the Umgah were able to win because of numbers and the fact the Jugger cannot fire through the antimatter cone.  To handle this, the computer plowed into the cone and dropped his shield for one frame to fire, losing a crew member.

Slylandro vs. VUX.  The VUX surprised me quite a bit in this tourney, making a good showing and before losing to the Kzer-Za in the quarterfinals of the Lower Bracket.   It was 14 Intruders against 10 Probes (168 VUX vs 170 Slylandro).  After defeating the Probes, they went on to bump one of my top-seeded teams down to the Lower Bracket...

VUX vs. Kohr-Ah.  They overwhelmed the Kohr-Ah, plain and simple.  The match was 13 VUX against 5 Kohr-Ah.  The VUX AI fights like a pit bull, charging straight in against anything.  This strategy works exceptionally well against big, heavy stand-off ships like the Marauder (or the Dreadnaught, which they lost to by 6 crew).

Kohr-Ah vs. Ilwrath.  Again, you have a close-in slugger (the Avenger) against a long-range heavy hitter.  Against a more numerous fleet (12 Ilwrath vs 4 Kohr-Ah), the black Ur-Quan were once again over run and eliminated from the tournament.

Ilwrath vs. Orz..  One of the biggest surprises of the tourney.  At first glance, the Orz appear to horribly out-class the Ilwrath.  However, when the Avenger is cloaked, any space marines sent out just return to the *Nemesis*.  The Orz captain is forced to fly in close and draw the Avenger's fire, while avoiding the flamethrower, and hope the spiders keep firing long enough to get a couple of marines on board.  Its not a very productive strategy, but the only other option is firing semi-blind with the difficult to control howitzer.  Add in the fact that it was 14 to 6 on the ship rosters, and the result is nothing short of a massacre.  The Ilwrath lost only two ships in defeating the Orz fleet.

Earthling vs. Chenjesu.  Earth won?  How?  Replays battle.  Ah, right, because the point-defense shoots down the crystal shrapnel.  They then went on to defeat the Orz (who won't launch their marines against an enemy with defense lasers) and then get eviscerated by the Chmmr.  Dropping to the Lower Bracket, they died fast and quiet against squirrels.

Some things I noticed...

1.) Obviously, I've learned the AI doesn't know how to use some ships very well.  The most egregious examples are the Mmrnmhrm X-Form and Earthling Cruiser, with which the AI always wants to fire their homing missiles away from the enemy, not toward it.

2.) If you start a battle, and one side of the battle is Spathi, go ahead and go make dinner or clean your room or something.  Its gonna be a while.  That said, the Spathi are one ship the AI uses fairly well.  its just sloooooow.

3.) The Win Screen is very important.  A few of these battles were determined because of what happens while one side is somewhat dead.  The Androsynth, for example, will always go into the next battle energy-broke if they used their comet form to win.  The Mycon lost to the ZFP because it spent its down time making crew, rather than saving the energy for the first salvo against the next ship.

4.) The ZFP vs Shofixti battle was the first time I actually saw a Scout on the Win Screen.  The second time was later, when the Shofixti beat the Ilwrath.  Since the AI's tendency is to use the Glory Device if at all possible, a Shofixti actually "winning" is fairly rare.

5.) The Androsynth vs Umgah battle in the Lower Bracket was the only time the Androsynth won by use of bubbles rather than comet.  The Guardians would rocket-ball up to the Drones, forcing them to back away with their secondary.  Of course, the Androsynth have a superior ship, and by the time their batteries run out, they've run down the Umgah as well.  After that, its just sit at middle range and blow bubbles at them, a few of which make it around the cone and pop on the slow Drone.

6.) The VUX are surprisingly good at shooting down the Chenjesu's D.O.G.I.s.  The DOGIs still try to get away if the Intruder turns toward them, but the VUX can sweep its laser like a scythe.

7.) The Yehat Terminator is a scary ship.  Of course, I already knew this, but it became very apparent in these battles.  They only lost because a.) The Chmmr have a LOT more firepower and b.) the Yehat's shield does not protect them from the Glory Device.  The Terminator's obvious liabilities are its low battery and crew, but they went nearly ship-for-ship against the green Ur-Quan, tossing the Dreadnaughts into the Lower Bracket.

THE SECOND ROUND

The second round will commence soon and might take a few days.  This will be a complete round-robin tournament.  In case you are wondering: yes, I am probably clinically insane.  The purpose of the second round is to really figure out what the teams should be.  Each match will consist of 14 vs 14 ships.  Obviously, some matches will be very short and brutal (see ZFP vs Chmmr, above).  A numerical analysis will follow, where I will put my math brain and a spreadsheet to work on figuring out what each ship is really worth to the AI.  Further tournament rounds will reflect these new ratings.

THE THIRD ROUND

For round 3 and beyond, I won't be using single-race teams, but come up with some (hopefully) interesting combinations from watching the first and second rounds.

Post your ideas, feedback, etc!

~G
2  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Minor feature of the original PC game, not in the 3D0 version... on: April 28, 2011, 04:14:29 pm
If I'm not mistaken, in the original game, if you were in a star system, you could pull up the star map, press enter then space, and the autopilot would take you out of the system.

Its a minor thing, but its dreadfully convenient.  Just press space, enter, enter, space and you're on your way out of the system, to use your portal spawner or 'caster.

~G
3  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / Why did the Precursors Flee (part 74,293)... New Theory? (Spoilers) on: April 11, 2011, 02:24:59 pm
I've done a cursory search on the forums here and on the web in general, and I think I have a new theory on why the Precursors fled this part of the galaxy.

They were in a really big hurry to leave this part of the galaxy.  But for a race that lived for millenia, what exactly constitutes a 'big hurry'?  Hundreds of years?  Thousands?  Perhaps whatever they were fleeing wasn't going to happen immediately, but at some point in the future, and they wanted to be absolutely sure they'd be good and gone.

Its just a crazy theory, but what if they were fleeing the Mycon?

While there is still some debate over whether they created the fun-guys or not, I like to think they did, with the obvious purpose of terraforming.  Maybe they just made them a little too well.   Perhaps the Mycon were created to adapt to different planets to aid in their job.  Thrown down on a world they are designed to survive, with no predators, and their evolution took off.  Soon sentience emerged.  With no history, no philosophy, no culture, it followed the cores rule of all life: self-preservation, reproduction, etc.  These actions are defined by other species as, of course, evil.  I don't think of the whole Juffo-Wup thing as a religion, really, so much as the Mycon's attempt at philosophy.  To them, sentience is no guarantor of rights.  There are predators and there are prey, if we're going to survive as a species, we have to destroy anyone else.

Perhaps the Precursors couldn't just destroy the Mycon for one reason or another.  This is where the theory starts to break down a little.  The Precursors obviously had very advanced weaponry.  The Mycon ships can be slaughtered en masse once a slightly modified Precursor cargo ship is thrown up against their entire fleet.  I have three options to explain this, and none are particularly strong. 

The first is a moral reason.  The Precursors knew the Mycon would eventually become a threat, but they couldn't bring themselves to destroy an entire sentient species.  Since reasoning with them was completely out of the question, they decided the moral thing to do would be to leave the area.   This begs the question why they didn't form some technology to simply contain the Mycon.  Perhaps their predictions saw the Mycon becoming more advanced than the Precursors sooner (and possibly with far worse consequences) than if they just left them alone.

The second option is the Mycon had already developed technology to fight the Precursors, but that obviously wouldn't wash, as you're using a Precursor ship. 

The last idea I had casts the Precursors in a somewhat less glowing light than how they are usually viewed.  The Slylandro describe the 'shaggy giants' as always running around, worried about a coming threat.  Perhaps, like every other race in the game, they have a prevailing racial characteristic that touches everything they do.  The Spathi are all cowards, and everything down to their ship design reflects this.  Maybe the Precursors, as a race, were incredibly paranoid.   A hyper-advanced race with no obvious enemies has to develop insanely powerful weapons for a reason.  Maybe there simply was no threat, but they had created new life to remake worlds and it got out of control.  A race-wide equivalent to a paranoid 'freak-out,' coupled with the above distaste for wiping out an entire sentient race, led to the decision to leave.

Your thoughts?

~G
4  The Ur-Quan Masters Re-Release / General UQM Discussion / The Best Thing About Ur-Quan Masters is... [MAJOR Spoilers] on: April 11, 2011, 01:37:39 pm
. . . what?

I'm curious: what are your favorite things about this amazing game.  Recently I've tried to narrow down some of mine.

1.) It's longevity.   The fact that I'm still playing and enjoying a game almost two decades after I first played it.   Other games have come and gone, a LOT of other games.  There are few that I keep playing, and none as long as SC2/UQM.

2.) The Excitement.  Yesterday, I narrowly escaped death deep in Ur-Quan space.  I was decked out, 4 crew pods, triple Hellbore with 3 guidance, 3 shivas and 3 dynamos, with a full fleet of Eluders for crew reserve.  But I made a mistake and found myself out of fuel with Dreadnaughts and Marauders bearing down on my from all sides.  With no ability to restock my crew, I had to slug it out until the Melnorme showed up.  I finally managed to hit the spawner and escaped into Quasi-Space with just The Captain alive.  I about had a heart attack.

3.) The Characters.  Its one of the few games I've played ever where I feel sorry for the villains.  Yes, the Ur-Quan are evil, and want to murder/enslave anyone they come across, but learning their history, its easy to sympathize with them.  Being forced to torture yourself to free your people from a psychotic overlord who is making you kill your friends is gonna mess anyone up a litte.  Every race is amazing in its own way, from the impish naughtiness of the Slylandro, to the bizarre religion of the Mycon.

4.) The Story. I'm still absolutely blown away by the story.   Its like a favorite book or movie.  You read or watch it over and over again.  Sometimes I'll just barrel through the game, using my (and the wiki's) meta-knowledge of the races, plot and starmap), gand sometimes I'll play it more RP, not acting on stuff I haven't learned in game.  Either way, its a blast.

5.) I still learn new things.  Unlike a favorite movie or game, I seem to pick up something I've always missed or forgot since the last time I played.  I just started playing again, and this is the first time I've played and reached the Umgah conversation about kidnapping a Mycon.  It added even more depth to the game to find out the Mycon are an artificial race.  The idea of a created intelligence developing its own religion fascinates me (and makes me wonder about the religious beliefs of the Mmrnmhrm.)

6.) Your Turn.

~G
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