How Neptune’s Pride 2: Triton ruined my life

Last spring the Game Design staff decided to check out a RTS space strategy game called Neptune’s Pride, there was alliances formed, secret alliances, fake alliances. Friendship and camaraderie quickly became deceit and trickery, and piece by piece each galactic empire was picked off and eliminated. It came down to 2 girls on one side of the map, 2 girls on the other side of the map, and me smack dab in the middle. The game ended when everyone woke up and discovered that I had launched a massive attack in the middle of the night to grab the required # of planets to win.

Fast forward 1.5 years later, and Iron Helmet Games has just released the Beta version of their newest game Triton: Neptune’s Pride II. Once again the Game Design Staff decided to start up another game and check out the latest version. Some participants from last year chose not to get involved this time due to the obsessive nature and combativeness of the game, but eventually we got 8 of us together and kicked off another galactic battle.

The premise of the game is fairly simple, each player starts out in a universe of stars with a small cluster of stars that are their galaxy, and a set # of ships. The objective is to build carriers to transport your ships to the orbit of other planets to take ownership of them. If the planet is unoccupied, it is yours, if another player is already at that planet, a mathematical battle ensues to see who remains, and how many ships they have. The first player to own over 50% of the total galaxies stars is the winner.

There is three key elements that the player has direct control over, building Economy, Industry or Science. All of which have a net effect on how much money the player earns every 24 hours, how many ships are built over time, and finally how quickly a player can develop their technologies. Each technologies allows faster development of ships, more money, longer range of scanning, longer distances you can travel, or more powerful weapons. Technology development takes time, so strategic players will swap technology with other players to grow faster.

The early part of the game is about developing alliances, choosing your enemies or targets, establishing cease-fires, and especially figuring out which players are sharing your borders. Ships are built and money is spent… and this is where the trouble begins.

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER

The game operates in ticks, every hour your ships move, things are generated, every 24 hours money is generated… we started the game in the morning, so each morning you have to see where things are at, make your strategic decisions about where you will spend your dollars, and devise a strategic plan for the rest of the day, or, if you are like me, what is the plan for the next hour. Every time the clock ticks, my obsession with games causes me to check-in on the progress, what has been developed in my galaxy, with my limited scanning can I see anything new going on with my neighboring players? Now that the game is built using HTML 5 I can check on my phone, I can check on my iPad, as well as my home and work CPU’s… and I did, a lot!

The first moment of OCD badness comes into play when we all decide to pause the game at 5:00pm Fridays, and restart at 9:00am on Mondays. How can I just look at a non-changing game all weekend? Well I did, I would check it out numerous times over the weekend, and plan out the strategies for when the game restarts on Monday morning. And then several hours later, I would re-check my strategies, make some adjustments add some new flight paths and put it away… for a couple hours. By the time we got through Saturday I had checked it over a dozen times, and we still had to get through Sunday. By the time Monday morning came and the game restarted everything was ready to go, because I had over-analyzed the restart to death.

I quickly built carriers and sent out ships to gather as many planets within range as possible, two of the players in the Eastern side of the galaxy (one was my neighbor) didn’t pay much attention to the game and were quickly annihilated.┬áThis resulted in me leading all players in the total number of stars I had… This would be a problem.

Although I thought I had arranged some good strategies with two players to take each other out, they joined forces and sent a massive attack against my planets, at exactly the same time I was trying to move against another team. I went from being in a strong position attacking one team, to suddenly being in an all out war with three teams at the same time.

And then, the worst possible thing that could happen happened… The Program Assistant that created the game went on vacation for a week, and she paused the game. For 9 excruciatingly long days nothing happened. When I had a spare moment, I would look at the paused game, are my plans the right ones? Will this counter-attack work? Will I survive this attack, how about that attack? Every day I checked, and nothing had changed, every day I would re-examine my choices. Then I would look at it again an hour later… of course nothing was different. I dreamed about attack strategies, I woke up thinking about what might happen, I went to sleep running through the strategies that I chose… every day… for… 9… long… days!

9 days of looking at this attack on me

Having 9 days to plan it out, I set a plan in motion… Cease Fire with one team, and full defense then retaliation against the other 2.

Every morning as soon as I woke up, check the status, every night before I go to sleep, plan the attcks and moves. I targetted key planets where they were building ships, took over their industry and science, and stole their economy. The Intel screen shows exactly what happened to my new found enemies. (Falkowski is Green, Walsh is Red, and Tran is Purple). Once I was in their main planets, I had their money, and could build more ships to attack with.

It was all very strategic, realizing I had to sacrifice so many ships, and knowing everyone was attacking me, I struck a deal with Tanya… I’ll give you my planets in the back so you can win, and I will annihilate those that attacked me. It seemed like a great plan, I could make up for the overnight betrayal against Tanya and allies in the first game of Neptunes Pride, and hand a win to a strategic ally. Turns out, the strategic plan would be my downfall.

As I was in the process of eliminating Falkowski and Walsh, three things happened; Walsh went on a little adventure bouncing planet to planet to try and survive, Falkowski all of a sudden jumped 2 Weapons upgrades just minutes before I was going to remove him from the galaxy (which cost me some planets and ships), and I learned the truth about my “allies”. They had not only negotiated with the enemy, they convinced them to perform the all-out attack, and Tanya provided the weapons upgrades to Falkowski. That’s when the game changed.

I no longer was sharing my newest weapons technology, ships were being sent my way, and Sharai was vacating the majority of her planets, handing them over to Tanya.

It was all going to come down to a massive final battle between me and my former ally, Tanya. Plans were set in motion, Defend! Counter-attack! If I could just get past the initial attack and grab some planets before Tanya could get ships to all the vacated planets… I could steal back the planned victory for Tanya. Oh, and I had to eliminate the 2 easily-persuaded and gullible teams that took directions to attack me… that’s right… Revenge is sweet!

Things were playing out OK, I was able to have everything enroute to eliminate Peter and Jon, I was bringing in reinforcements to deal with Tanya’s attack, and then it was Friday at 5:00 and the game was paused again for the weekend. 64 excruciating hours to see how this would end. Would I be able to protect my main planets, would I lose some planets while strategically taking others away from Tanya… and most importantly, would I destroy those other 2 teams who succumbed to the feminine wiles of our admin staff.

So close when the game was paused

Over the course of the weekend I mapped out paths and attacks for every one of my ships, there would be a 16 hour jump when the game un-paused, how could I make this work?

The game map was a spiderweb of planned movement by both me and Tanya…

Monday morning came, but traffic was terrible due to an accident on a bridge… so we patiently waited an extra hour for the game to restart, what would happen? Could I last long enough to get past the first push of ships? Would I recapture some planets from Tanya to start working towards the required 89 stars? Would Peter and Jonathan still exist in this universe?

and… just as suddenly… the game was over. The vacated planets had been reached, my ships didn’t quite arrive in time, and Tanya captured the required 89 stars. The backstabbing, the strategies, the abandonment of planets by her true ally, and the encouragement of the other teams to attack me, all paid off.

The final map of the universe appears, showing everyone’s planets, the paths of ships that were on their way, and all of the potentials that could have happened if only things kept playing for a little longer.

Congratulations to Tanya, the latest ‘Ruler of the Universe’. Now I can get back to my life and start using my spare time for other pursuits, like planning a vacation away from all these backstabbing coworkers.

MY ONLY REGRET… The game ended 16 hours before Falkowski and Walsh were annihilated.

 

Neptune’s Pride II: Triton is a hardcore, space based multiplayer online strategy game for the browser with simple mechanics and a focus on player diplomacy.┬áThe game was developed by Iron Helmet Games which was founded by Jay Kyburz, a developer that worked on Tribes and Bioshock, as well as Penny Sweetser who was a senior designer on Xcom and Bioshock 2.


Dave Warfield is the head of Game Design at VFS