VGA Planets Super Site

What is VGA Planets?
A description of the game and the play by e-mail principle

VGA Planets is a graphical, multi-player, turn-based game. Which is quite a mouthful, but not nearly the same as the "realtime strategy" or "3D-accelerated first person shooter" type games as they are known nowadays. VGA Planets is designed to be played with two to eleven players in a play by mail (electronic mail) game format. It simulates combat in space between galactic scale empires. As the name "VGA" Planets indicates, the game's principle is quite old: the letters "VGA" were proudly added to the name to indicate that it was one of the first play by e-mail games with any kinds of graphics. However, the graphics are not the game's strongest asset. If you are looking for realistic fullscreen 3D spacebattles and ditto explosions, if instant action is what you want, look elsewhere. VGA Planets is a thinking man's game, and emphasizes on strategy, diplomacy and management.

Although VGA Planets is a multiplayer game, it is not in the sense as multiplaying is known today. There's no arena with eight virtual warriors running around blowing eachother to bits, and it's not a realm with several warclans fighting eachother in real time either. There is however, the Echo Cluster. This imaginary part of the galaxy consisting of 500 planets is the "arena" in which up to eleven players order around their ships. Contrary to most games however, this does not happen in real time but it is a turn-by-turn chain of events. The main difference with turn-based boardgames like chess, checkers and risk, is the fact that all players make their turns simultaneously. This requires a slight shift in perception: as you give your orders, you do so based on the information you have at the beginning of the turn. But later, as your orders are being processed, so are the orders of the other players. Your opponents might figure out what you are going to do and anticipate this. With chess, for comparison, your opponent has to wait until after your turn before he can react to what you do. It is important to keep this in mind.

A typical game of VGA Planets consists of eleven players. One person, who may also be one of the players, hosts the game. To start a game, the host person creates the universe the players get to toy around in. Most games use a standard map with 500 planets on fixed positions, but despite the fixed positions no two games are ever the same. There are eleven different races for the players to command, each with it's unique skills, abilities and problems. Once the game is mastered the first turn is hosted, presenting the players with their starting situations. Each turn of hosting creates so-called RST files for each of the players. These are the 'result' of the hostrun, and contain the state of the universe after the hostrun.

VGA Planets was first designed to be played over BBS systems, where players could download their RST files. Nowadays e-mail is the most common method of transferring files, but any method of transferring files can be used. Some hosts have websites set up through which you can download your RSTs, sometimes so-called blitz games are played via ICQ or IRC, and ofcourse the good old method of distributing files via floppies (when playing among friends at work or school, for example) still exists.

When the players receive their RST, they unpack the data it contains. This data is then loaded into their client program and the players are presented with the current situation in the universe. The players then use the client-program to give their orders, manage their empires and send their ingame messages. The combined actions and orders a player wishes to be executed are called a "turn".

When a player has given all his orders, the client program makes a binary file of these combined actions, a so-called TRN file. This file is then sent to the host person. The host person waits until the set deadline and/or until he has received all turns, and then runs the host program. This program processes all the players' commands, transfers messages sent within the game, calculates the outcome of battles and much more. Upon completion, the host program writes eleven new RST files which are to be sent back to the players.

The players receive their new RST, unpack the data, load it into their client program and are now presented with the new situation in the universe. They get to give their orders again, and send the next turn to the host. This process is repeated until someone has won the game or until the set ending of a game.

Now that we've had a look at what VGA Planets is and how it works, let's move on to see what exactly playing VGA Planets is all about.

UP: New to VGA Planets?

NEXT: The scenario

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