Pride And Falls: Neptune’s Pride Diary Part 5

By RPS on March 14th, 2010 at 1:17 pm.


Empires have risen, and now they are falling. The fifth part of our battle for Neptune’s Pride sees the final contenders struggling for ultimate victory in a long, drawn-out attrition that would tax their very souls… (PCG’s version of this diary is over here.)

Tom Francis: Pembleton, you’re on fire. Why is the roof made of stars?
“The Governator, sir, it… the palace… the empire… my fourth and ninth ribs…”

Guards, extinguish Pembleton! He’s annoying when he’s immolated.
“Tha- splh- thank you sir. That is a help.”
Now, what’s this you’re gibbering about?
“Sir, the galaxy has been ripped apart. Hentzau, Sponge, Crispy – their entire civilisations have been obliterated, and the Governator wasted all of our fleets attacking our only allies. Now we’re at war with everyone, defenceless, and much of the fondue is ruined.”
Interesting. What happened to the Governator?
“After I kicked him into the ranch dressing jacuzzi, sir, I really couldn’t say. Though as I recall you commissioned him to be invulnerable to buttermilk, so we haven’t got long.”
Very well. This is our last chance: I want you to order all of our remaining ships to attack… Kieron Gillen.

“Sir, I don’t know who that is.”
Silence! I want a precision assault, target his weakest stars and move on the moment we’ve seized control. Prioritise the takeover of industry and the plunder of economic assets. Leapfrog through his territory faster than his ships can pursue, and with any luck we can make it out the other side with a tidy profit and all the whores we can smear with Raclette.

“Again, sir, I simply don’t-”
Fine! I will orchestrate the procedure myself. I’m sure I won’t have another lapse of-
“SEAL YOUR SHITFLAPS, BLOOD SACKS.”
The Governator! Quickly, Pembleton, he’s arming his Violator Beam! Remind me why I fitted a managerial robot with a Violator Beam?
“Alcorian nanopheasants, sir.”
Nevermind! If I don’t make it out of here, send the fleets! Then invent an incompetent butler named Pembleton, and alter the transcript to blame this all on him.
“But sir that’s…”
FZZZSSSOWWWW!
“… stupid…”

Kieron: Tom is a right fucker.

Jim: It’s fair to say that I had no choice at this point. Kieron’s advances into Quinns’ territories might have saved me from the horrible arm of Q, but they also give my growing fleets nowhere to go. I think I had vaguely hoped I might come in second if Kieron’s fleets have over-stretched themselves, or perhaps the struggle for victory among the remaining few would give me a break… It seemed unlikely, given the stats. I was miles behind anyone else in both industry and economy, and my science faculties have never really been able to keep up. The tech levels of the other nations was zooming ahead of me, leaving me without the weapon skill I would need to do any significant damage, particularly against Kieron. That said, his vast, exposed flank was literally the only option for attack, and so we engaged. It was quite the long-game, with both of us trying to outwit the other with clever movements of fleets. Logging on early in the morning often gave rise to orders, cancelled orders, and counter-orders, as we spotted each other making moves. With both sides pumping out hundreds of ships per day, we were locked into slow attrition that I was only ever going to lose, thanks to my tiny handful of star systems, and my limited grip on space. I would not end the game without any stars, but I would never have been a contender for victory.

The victory conditions for NP are somewhat curious, in that there’s only really recognition for the winner. Towards the end I felt my personal achievement would be holding onto my capital system. But as Kieron’s world pumped out countless hundreds of ships, even that looked like a crazy dream.

Kieron: Jim is a right Fucker.

Quinns Graham is finished. He is crumbling like the crackers of his namesake.

Just as I was crushed by him and Kieron attacking together, he can’t possibly stand up to Kieron and myself attacking together. At this point I’ve got two vast fleets on a course that takes them past Graham’s frontline to the poorly defended and very juicy industrial planets beyond. If he doesn’t pull his fleets back, I wreck his ship production. If he does, Kieron launches a full scale invasion.

Graham sends me a curiously begging-free message pointing out that if I go ahead with this Kieron will win, so I should halt my fleets. I reply saying two things: One, he’s in no position to be telling me to do anything. Two, if he does what I tell him we can erase Kieron from the game.

I inform Graham of my plan in its entirety. Once those two vast fleets arrive in the rear of his territory (outside Kieron’s scanning range) I won’t move them to take any more systems. Instead I’ll turn them around and send them straight back at Kieron’s territory. Graham’s ships and my own can destroy Kieron’s forces on that front, meanwhile I’ll be launching a retaliatory attack over in my own territory. In 48 hours Kieron will be a nobody, ripe for the taking by Jim, Graham and myself.

Graham agrees and I am happy. Over the bumpy course of a few days I’ve turned a combined attack that should have taken me out of the game into defeating the bigger of the two original aggressors. This, right here, is a computer game.

Kieron: Things are going well. Things are going terribly.

I’m leading the game now. It’s a clear win. People are congratulating me, saying I deserve it after being almost wiped out early on. I feel good, even though I know they’re lying. Jim’s attack is an annoyance, which grows all the more with every passing hour. I simply can’t crush him, as the vast majority of my forces are tied up in defensive positions facing Graham. Quinns and my attack plan was that I hold a front against the majority of Graham’s forces, whilst he jumps in deep behind. So either Graham retreats his forces to defend his heartland, allowing me to advance the front, or he holds the front and Quinns runs rampage in the backfield. It’s a great plan. Problem being, I can see that after the initial strikes, Quinns is claiming no more territory. Part of me thinks he’s just not logged in again. Part of me knows that something fishy’s going on.

Problem being, despite this knowledge, there’s nothing I can do. I manouvere my forces to keep my northern front, keeping it par on what Graham has there… but that doesn’t leave enough forces to fight Jim with any seriousness. I can flirt with him – and the fencing is openly hilarious. When you give the order to jump, all the other players can see what the destination is. You then have half an hour to cancel. Thing being, that means you can see any immediate counter moves – like ships moving to reinforce where the enemy strike is arriving. At which point, you see you’re doomed and cancels the order… and they cancel theirs too. I’m primarily playing defensive, just stopping Jim’s inching, slow-crawl creeping offensives – always planet-for-planet, a slow-front encroaching – while occasionally retaliating with a deep strike into his central territories. Out of scanner range to start with. I’m trying to find his heartlands. I equally don’t hold anything, but the aim’s really to make Jim spend a half day clearing up my fleets in his backfield to give me a chance to strengthen my empire.

But this is pointless. This doesn’t matter. All this does is divert my strength from the real battle. Jim stops responding to serious diplomacy at this point, which is a shame, as I suspect we could have come to an understanding and lead to a very different end-game… but it wasn’t to be.

I was sat there, paralysed, shooing Jim’s Fleets away and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m at a gig in London on Saturday night, and thoughts of Graham’s fleets advancing cut through the synth-pop. I can’t wait to get home to check the fleets, just to… well, I dunno. Minimise its effects? 3 hours is about all I can spend away from a computer and still have a chance to fight back. Sleeping is hell. It doesn’t matter. I’m just stuck in a reactive corner (i.e. A losing one). Unless I can find a way to develop my empire enormously, I’m screwed. I consider stabbing Quinns in the far west, but I can’t afford to fight a third war and don’t really have the fleets there. There is a chance that he’s just being slow rather than treacherous.

The one move I have proves too abhorrent even for me. I need to stop Jim from attacking me. The only possible way I can think of to do that is to forward a mail Quinns wrote saying disparaging things about Jim’s defence of his empire, compared to the much more challenging Hentzau. In other words, if Jim doesn’t actually back off from me, you’re handing the game to the person who has been slagging you off behind your back. Do you really want to do that?

I don’t do it. That I was even considering showed how far I’d crawled into the moral murk.

I sit. I wait. I fret.

And I have a Doomsday plan… but I keep that quiet for now. Jim’s annoyed me as much as Sponge did with his play. You may be aware of what I did to Sponge. Frankly, if I’m going down, there’s no way I’m leaving him alive.

C’mon, shoe. Drop! Drop!

__________________

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43 Comments »

  1. Bamft says:

    Amazing, as always. I started a game of this after the second Diary, and so far it is immense fun.

    I do find my self planning computer time, which is wierd. For example I know a fleet of my enemies will connect to one of my worlds in 8 hours, while mine will connect 3 hours after. This has created a wierd window where I have to log in within that time period and give orders to my armada to follow his armada.

  2. 12kill4 says:

    Features like this are why I just decided to give you money every month. Bravo!

    • sexyresults says:

      Funnily enough, it was the reason I subscribed the other day.

  3. Subucula Tertia says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    Amazing, as always. I started a game of this after the second Diary, and so far it is immense fun.

    Same here, although I’m finding that playing with strangers lessens the drama (not to mention the AI). Loving this diary though.

    • Chris says:

      This is true, the rememdy being pay for credits and launch your own password protected game.

      This comes in at between $5 to $3.75 between up to 12 people. If you like your games epically long then its really only pennies a month.

  4. Vague-rant says:

    Is that one star in the middle of Graham’s territory Quinns’? How on earth did it get there?

    In terms of seeing where your opponents ships are heading, on thing you could try is to attack two stars along the same line of sight fairly close together and hope the other person doesn’t notice this(and assumes you’re attacking the closer one). I tried this once and the other person didn’t react one way or the other, but I think the idea might have merit.

    • Blackberries says:

      I think that star is from Quinns’ deep jump into Graham’s territory, initially to start wreaking havoc in his backroom, but subsequently the staging post for an attack on Kieron.

  5. Chris D says:

    This series has been fantastic reading. I simultaneously want to play this game and also know that I never will. It’s too much like someone saying why heroin is amazing but then also describing the withdrawal syptoms, particularly Kieron’s section on feeling the need to log in every three hours. Personally I have enough trouble managing time spent on games that don’t continue in my absence never mind this.

    Kudos to Tom for not really doing anything very much but making it brilliantly entertaining to read about. Also to Kieron and Quinns for managing to reach the heights of bastardliness that they achieved in Solium Infernum, that bar was set pretty high.

    • jarvoll says:

      Yeah, I think I found Tom’s sections the most purely hilarious to read; they genuinely stood out in an already-crazily-entertaining piece. On the one hand, it makes a childish part of me rail against the idea that anyone outside the immediate RPS family could write well about PC games, but on the other, I’m so happy that someone outside the RPS family has written well about PC games. Well, there are often good links in the Sunday Papers, but… well, *I* know what I mean, anyway. Bravo Tom, for making an almost non-existent part into a highlight!

    • cullnean says:

      Tom’s always(sort of) been a good writer.

    • Lemon scented apocalypse says:

      a truth. fanboys = internet scum.

    • Bret says:

      His Galactic Civilizations diaries were joys.

      And probably a reason to assume that things would be different if Tom remembered to log in more often.

    • Shitflap says:

      I found Tom’s parts pleasantly suprising to read as well, but I went squee with delight to see my moniker used in today’s part.
      There must be some kind of mental simpatico at work

    • Collic says:

      If you like Tom’s sections, do yourself a favour and read his two Gal Civ 2 diaries. They’re linked at the bottom of the PCG version of the Neptune’s Pride diary. He’s the only other games journalist I really rate that isn’t an RPS regular.

      They are a very, very good read and they will want to make you play Gal Civ 2 (which is no bad thing, unless you have one of those life things).

  6. Blackberries says:

    Dear me this is exciting stuff. I’d love to play a game of NP myself, but I fear I’d simply end up against strangers. That might turn out okay, but wouldn’t be quite the same.

    Anyhow: looking forward to the next installment :3.

  7. neothoron says:

    The more I read, the more I am convinced that the game suffers, at its core, from some flaws that change the game drastically while it happens.

    The most glaring thing is that, at the beginning, travel is very slow – 15 hours can pass without anything happening. But at the end, everything can happen so fast – people have to schedule around the game, and I believe that’s too much.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      The game seems to not pace so well either. The game doesn’t offer many options to grow sustainably. Large empires seem too vulnerable. Finding the right balance here should be tricky enough for any game designer, true enough. But alas! The game offers nothing new in this department. It’s late game expansionists preying on larger empires that tend to win. Been there, done that.

  8. DMcCool says:

    This really is one of those times when being a games journalist must be the most fun. Messing around pouring hours into playing a fun browser game actually being what you SHOULD be doing with your lives. Okay no-one is paying you for this but..

    We’re paying you with our adoration. Or hits. Or something.

    Bravo anyway.

  9. Wednesday says:

    Why do I always end up rooting Kieron in these things?

    • Bret says:

      I dunno.

      I root for him because he wrote the best Beta Ray Bill comics since the Simonson days.

    • MD says:

      “Why do I always end up rooting Kieron”

      You’re likely neither the first nor the last to ask that question.

  10. EGTF says:

    I love this game, but I don’t think I’ll be playing it again. The emotinal investment, pissing off friends, maths and real life scheduling is really draining, especially when it goes on for about a month. A must try for everybody at least once though.

    In our game (at gamingdaily) I wish I could just do what Tom did and forget about it, so it doesn’t matter if you lose. But I’m at that point where I’ve invested so much I’ve got to see it out to the bitter end, but by gods I hope we have a winner by the end of next week.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      Yes, me too. I played this once – actually won it, much to my surprise. It was absolutely thrilling and consumed my thought for a couple of weeks, but it really drained me and I’m not sure I can go through it again!. One of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had though. Such an elegantly stripped down mechanic.

  11. Orange says:

    Kieron is pure evil, but I suspect Quinns is going to get cold feet here and end up taking Graham out.

    I will be highly impressed if Quinns manages to win yet again. Quinns for Space President!

  12. Xercies says:

    I have to say one thing I do not like about timed games is the ability to screw people over just because you can’t get to the computer thats not skill is it thats downright dirty to be honest. Thats why i like turnbased a lot more which is why SI beats this.

  13. Graham says:

    There’s a slight error on the map, I’ve just noticed. My most North-Western star belonged Quinns. It was a backdoor into my territory, that allowed him to hop from his most North-Eastern into my space.

  14. mlaskus says:

    I just started playing a few days ago and it is brilliant.
    I’ve never been such a bastard in my whole life… I’m loving it! :)

  15. Svenska says:

    One of the things I’m afraid of is any more changes to the game. The fact that each race will have different bonuses means that you’re no longer equal, which I believe is where most of the fun comes from.

    To be honest, I believe that I love the pacing of the game. For those that truly want to get involved, they certainly can, but in the game I’m playing, I’m aware that I wont be on 24/7. Part of the fun will be waking up and seeing some major attack under way, and trying to find a way to stop it.

    This is a truly elegant game, one I will play for a good deal of time.

  16. Nick says:

    I enjoyed Stars! a hell of a lot more than I did this game.

  17. terry says:

    I like how over the course of this series the dominant question has changed from “Who can I trust?” to “Who can I sort of trust?” to “Who do I not trust?” to “Who do I trust the least?” to “Who do I trust the most to betray me?” to “Who do I trust to betray me immediately?” to “Who can I trust at all?”

  18. Tyndareus says:

    I tried NP, but it’s essentially an MMO, without the “massive” part, of course and, hence, in my book, the time investment is prohibitive. Life can be such a party (and game) spoiler…

    Solium Infernum can be equally stressful and thought-consuming, while being taxing on one’s relations with their friends and in-game opponents (btw, how one, and particularly one who has played against him in SI, would be so naive as to enter into an alliance with Quinns is quite beyond me), but the setting is just delicious and the fact that you can play without the worry of missing on the developments due to not logging in often enough, makes SI much more appealing in my book and, in the final analysis, a superior game.

    Still, a fun diary this one and the idea behind NP is certainly interesting.

  19. riadsala says:

    Question: what happened to the AI War diary?

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      I don’t know, but I do know you’re not the only one who’d like to know that.

    • Nick says:

      It died from anemia.

    • Army_of_None says:

      “It died from anemia.”

      This.

    • riadsala says:

      Shame.

      I wonder if they’ll play the game again now that the expansion is out.

      Or a big co-op Sins of a Solar Empire game. It would be screenshot-tastic.

      Hmm. Have to get round to playing AI War myself. Once I’ve played Sins some more though. Hmm. So little time.

    • Vinraith says:

      I do wish they’d give AI War another go, especially in light of Zenith Remnant being out. Alternatively, Sword of the Stars (with all three expansions, of course) would lend itself nicely to a big group AAR of this sort.

  20. Voice of the Majority says:

    The main problem with this type of games lies in their business model. The game must be very time consuming, so that the developer can sell in-game tools to make it slightly less time consuming. This, of course, applies only when you play seriously, but surely you would play to win?

    I’m sure it is possible to design a non-turn based online game, which does not require constant monitoring or people waking up at night to either launch an attack or fend it off.