VGA Planets Super Site

VGAP and "Command & Conquer: Red Alert"
it’s the same game altogether

At a first glance there is a world of difference between the world’s most popular play-by-email game VGA Planets and one of all times most successful strategy games: Red Alert. But when you think things through and take a good look at both of the games, the similarities are spooky. It might not hold up in court if it ever comes to a corporate espionage case, but it does make you wonder...

The differences

The most distinctive difference between both games is the type of game. One is a turn-based PBEM game, the other a real-time strategy game designed for network play. While VGA Planets allows for time between turns to thoroughly think things through, communicate with allies and anticipate your opponent’s every move, Red Alert calls for fast-paced action and decisionmaking.

The second big difference is the setting of each game. VGAP is a space-based conquest game, while RA mainly takes place on the mainland battleground. Sure, groundforces can be complimented by airplanes and naval vessels, but the main idea is this is an earthbound game.

Thirdly, there is a vast difference in complexity. While RA is basically easy (build base, build forces and crush enemy) VGAP is a bit more complex. In RA ore trucks automatically bring in money, in VGAP you have to carefully tax the natives on your planets for money. Also, where in RA the only resource is money (harvested by ore trucks) a VGAP-player has to manage the mining of fuel, three other types of minerals, money and supplies. And where in RA acquiring money faster is relatively easy (build more ore trucks), in VGAP all things influence eachother. Gathering minerals and fuel faster hurts the monetary situation, overtaxing the natives hurts altogether.

Another level of complexity presents itself when we look at the scale of things in both games. As said, RA is pretty straightforward. Build a base, build tanks (or take the hard way and build infantry) and go and hunt down your enemies. In VGAP one has to decide where to build bases, which areas to defend and most of all where to hit which enemy. Sure, on the large maps in RA one often has room enough to build multiple bases, but in VGAP each base can build warships while in RA the number of tanks one can build is not directly proportional to the number of bases/warfactories. So other than bringing in money faster, a second base in RA is often not worth the trouble of spreading defenses and keeping an eye on two locations at once.

Having said all that, you’re probably wondering how then these games can even remotely be considered to be "the same thing". To convince you, here’s a long list of similarities.


Okay, we promised to show you that these two games are exactly alike. Well, actually, we'll show you they're prettymuch alike. Or rather, we'll show you they have some odd similarities. Ehm, make that we'll just show you they aren't all that different. Ah heck, we'll show you that with a good dose of imagination the two games have a couple of things vaguely in common.

Game layout
No surprise, both games follow the same basic multiplayer principle. A number of people can participate, and someone has to lose. The winner can be a single person or an alliance, but everyone knows at the beginning of a game: somebody is going to get his ass kicked.

Artificial intelligence sucks

In both games, the AI sucks for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it's just not as much fun to play against a computer. There is no greater reward in these games than knowing you're actually harassing a real person when you're invading his poorly defended territory. The sheer notion of what your enemy must think when you take out his ore refinery with a swift Mig-strike (Red Alert) or the horror your enemy is facing once your Super Star Destroyer reaches his homeworld (VGA Planets) is what makes the game worth all the time you spend on it.

Secondly, artificial intelligence just can't match up to the human mind. The reasons they can somewhat keep up the pace are speed and cheating. The AI in Red Alert is much, much faster than any human player. While you are thinking "geez, where exactly shall I build my warfactory?" the computer opponent has long built it and is already spitting out tanks like mad. In VGA Planets, the various computer players cheat like hell. This ranges from normally impossible mineral-transportations via scooping up free fuel to seeing ships they aren't supposed to see.

The good guys / bad guys division

In VGA Planets, the eleven races one can choose from are loosely based on movies and television series. By this nature, there is a distinction between the "good" and "evil" races. Good races include the Federation (Star Trek), the Rebels (Star Wars) and the Missing Colonies of Man (Galactica). The evil races include among others their arch-enemies: the Borg, the Robots (Cylons) and ofcourse the dreaded Evil Empire (Galactic Empire, Star Wars).

In Red Alert, you get to choose between one of the Allied countries (England, Germany, France), or one of the "bad" countries (Russia, Ukraine).

In none of the games however, being a good guy means you have to act like one. The Rebels and Colonies are considered among the stronger, most powerful races in VGA Planets, while in Red Alert the box of gimmicks the allied forces have at their disposal makes them a force to be reckoned with as well.

Good guys lack raw firepower

As we’ve seen, both games have some sort of a division in good and bad races. Even more remarkable: both games use the same method of distincting the good from the bad guys. Basically, the bad guys have the good guys outgunned.

In Red Alert, the allied forces are somewhat undergunned. Their heaviest tank is called the "medium tank" for a reason. The "heavy tank" can only be built by the 'bad' countries in this scenario. On top of that, the evil countries can build the massive "mammoth tank". The good countries are even outgunned when it comes to defensive measures: their turrets are no match for the tesla coils the bad guys can build.

In VGA Planets, it's quite similar. The main good race, the Federation, can build some very nice ships but has no single ship to match up to the massive carriers most of the evil races can build.

The "move on, move on..." connection

Both games offer players the possibility to –next to normal movement- move units over great distances very fast.

In Red Alert, the allied forces have their Chronoshifter and their chronotanks. By disrupting the space-time continuum they can use these devices to move an object anywhere. There is one limit however: the unit will eventually shift back into the continuum and move back to it’s original location.

In VGA Planets the Cyborg player can use his Firecloud class ships to open up a subspace rift. When this rift closes it’s power can be used to chunnel ships along with the closing rift. Here too, there is one limit: the Borg must already have a Firecloud at the desired destination. Also, hyperjumping probes can make giant leaps through space.

The "sniper alley" connection

This element was bound to be included in both games, since it unfortunately seems to be an ingredient of any kind of warfare. Both games have their own type of sneaky bastard.

In VGA Planets, certain ships can cloak. This ofcourse offers a tremendous strategical advantage, so to compensate for this cloaking ships usually are not that heavily armed. So while these cloaked ships can do some great damage by picking on weaker opponents (unarmed freighters, small battleships, scouts and poorly defended planets) there are a large number of ships they’d rather not run into. Most cloaking ships will lose to the most mediocre battleships that cannot cloak.

Red Alert offers the player control over the Tanya-unit. This female version of Rambo is very lethal, very fast and does great against poorly outfitted objects. Infantry units are no match to Tanya’s precision gun and excellent marksmanship, buildings are easily destroyed by her batches of plastic explosives. Tanya’s equivalent of the cloaking device is her relatively small size and her speed. Weapons in Red Alert – and especially tanks – don’t fire very fast, nor accurate. So as long as Tanya stays on the run she is very hard to kill. However, there are a couple of units she’d rather not run into: although she does very well against infantry units, she doesn’t seem to kill guarddogs quite as swiftly and often gets eaten alive by them. Tanya vs. Defensive Structures is an even worse scenario for her; many a female hero has gotten herself zapped by Tesla Coils, burned to death by Flamethrowers or ripped apart by the gunfire of the ol’ machinegun-nest.

The Tesla connection

One of the most fearsome defensive weapons in Red Alert is the dreaded Tesla Coil. Shooting out rays of pure energy, they can kill the biggest of tanks with a mere two hits. Tim Wisseman's hobby: building Tesla coils.

The Website background connection
Compare with the Red Alert webpages .......

The long awaited sequel connection
Finally, we arrive at the similarity neither of the games should be proud of. Both Red Alert and VGA Planets have a loyal fanbase, and both these bases have been waiting for a sequel for quite a long time now.

In the case of Red Alert, the new version (Tiberian Sun) has been due for release for about a year before it finally hit the shelves in september 1999.

VGA Planets is even worse in this case. Rumors of a new version being release date as far back as late 1997, with people making the release of the new V4 their newyear’s wish for 1998. But by december of that year, still no new version... It is now october of 1999, and V4 is being beta-tested.

Okay, there you have it kids, with that much similarities VGA Planets and Red Alert are basically the same game. Keep an eye out for the next installment in these series: why VGA Planets and Mortal Kombat III are the same game. As if!

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